© 1817 Jane Austen
Persuasion is the story of a young couple broken apart by the young woman (Anne’s) family convincing her that her beau doesn’t have enough money or social standing to be a good match for her. After Anne’s foolish father squanders the family’s resources on trying to meet society’s expectations, they’re forced to rent out the family home to an admiral and his family. Said family includes…..the jilted beau, Captain Wentworth, who re-enters Anne’s social scene. After first studiously avoiding the other, the erstwhile lovers are forced to talk after the Captain’s new belle injures herself acting foolishly, and the old flame (never lost) flares up yet again. This time, though, said captain has money and social standing, so everyone is A-OK with the union and they all live happily ever after. Of the five Austen novels I’ve read, this is both the snobbiest and the most dangerous to live in, since there’s enough widows and widowers to make a drinking game out of. I think I’d find the novel more interesting if the ending hadn’t effectively legitimated Anne’s family’s snobbery: what if they were reunited and the Captain’s fortunes hadn’t improved, had indeed worsened, but Anne decided her affection and love for his character meant more than his meager funds and humble social status? That said, Austen does mock the snobbery, most obviously through her father — a man who has to quit his family home because he can’t bear to rein in his spending for fear of losing status, who distracts himself from his financial woes by poring over the equivalent of the Social Register. I enjoyed it well enough, but the ending was obvious from reading the back of the book: unlike Northanger Abbey, there was never any ambiguity.