This may be the original “second chance at love” story. After all, the novel was still very young when Austen was writing in the early 1800s, and her characters and plots were often groundbreaking. Persuasion, her last completed novel, is no exception.
When she was 19 years old, Anne Elliot was persuaded to turn down the marriage proposal of Frederick Wentworth because he had no fortune or family connections to recommend him. As the novel opens, it is eight years later and Anne has never gotten over her love for Frederick. She has “lost her bloom” and is undervalued by almost everyone around her, especially her family who place too much emphasis on looks and vivaciousness. Now Frederick returns to the neighborhood, as handsome and vital as ever, having made a fortune as a naval captain. He’s still angry at Anne for turning him down, and so refuses to acknowledge, even to himself, that he continues to have feelings for her.
Besides the very relatable heroine and the very dashing hero, Persuasion has some fun supporting characters. There’s Anne’s father, a man so narcissistic that he has multiple mirrors in every room of the house. Anne’s sister Mary likes to complain and to fancy herself ill and ill-used. Of course, the book also has the requisite charming scoundrel who forms the third side of the love triangle. And let’s not forget Captain Benwick, the man who reads too much poetry, and who is presented as another possible partner for Anne. Frederick’s sister, Sophy Croft, is a favorite Austen character for her good sense and deep feeling.
The book ends with one of the most romantic letters in all literature. It’s part of why Persuasion is the second most popular Austen novel, close behind Pride and Prejudice. Read it and see for yourself.