Best. Book. EVER.
You know, I complain to myself all the time that the combination of blogging, book groups, and a library job have killed all my time for rereading, but I am so glad I made an exception and read this again. I've read Persuasion several times (and watched the movies more times than I can count), and I still can't get enough of this book. It's my favorite Jane Austen novel, EVER. My apologies to Lizzie and Darcy, but Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are her most romantic couple.
Basically, here's the setup: Anne Elliot is 27 and unmarried; when she was 19, she fell in love with Frederick Wentworth, a poor but promising naval officer. Her family and friends persuaded her to break off the engagement, but she has never stopped loving Wentworth. Now, he's successful and back in the picture -- but does he still love her? And can he forgive her for her earlier rejection?
This is Austen's final novel, written just before she died, herself unmarried at the age of 41. It's a little melancholy, but to my mind also the most romantic of the novels. There is some great comic relief, some satire, and some deliciously nasty characters as well. Of all her novels, I think this is the one with the most social commentary, especially regarding class and rank.
If you are a Jane Austen fan (and I assume if you've read this far, you are) I cannot stop recommending David Shaphard's Annotated editions of these novels. These are amazing -- the novel itself is on the left-hand pages, and every right hand facing pages has corresponding explanatory notes -- vocabulary, history, drawings of items in Jane Austen's world (now I know exactly what kind of ships Wentworth sailed on!), etc., etc. The notes also delve deeper into some of the social conventions on the time, and they include commentary on why certain plot devices do or don't work, minor plot holes, etc.
HOWEVER -- I must point out that if you have NOT read all of Jane Austen's works, I would not read these editions -- the explanatory notes also include spoilers -- and not only for this book, but for her other books as well!! For example, a note might mention that "Such and such turns out to be _________, just like ________ in her other book, "____________." So, if you are not familiar with the major plot points Jane Austen's novels, I'd recommend waiting until you've read all the books first.
But if you're a Jane Austen fan who's read all the books like me, please, do yourself a favor, and get these! You will not be sorry. So far Shaphard has also annotated Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (which I'm reading right now); Emma is scheduled for publication in the spring. Hopefully Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey won't be far behind.