'Persuasion' is the Classic You Must Read (Or Re-Read) This Summer

We want to try something new on PolicyMic. Throughout the summer, we are going to run a series of articles called the PolicyMic Summer Reading List where users write about their favorite books. We’d love to cover a wide variety of books and we’d love for lots of users to contribute to this series. Do you have a favorite book you’d like to write about? Let Elena Sheppard know, (elena@policymic.com) and soon you too could be featured as a part of this series!

Now, on to a look at one of my favorite books!

I get asked fairly regularly what my favorite book is. To be honest, this isn’t an easy question for me to answer because I don’t have just one favorite book — I have a list of books that I reread on a semi-regular basis. One of those books is Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Persuasion is my one of my favorites for several reasons. To begin with, it is beautifully written — melancholy and haunting, it’s a piercing book that runs a full gamut of emotions in a very small space. That short length is another reason I love this book. It’s an easy book to finish because it barely cracks 200 pages. It can be fit in between other books for school or, if I have a long lazy day, it can probably be fit into one day. It is also terribly easy to identify with Anne Elliot, especially as I get older. She isn’t quite as energetic or loud as Elizabeth Bennet (she shares a lot more with Jane Bennet, except Anne is sad and put-upon, making her slightly more relatable than the rather forgettably gentle Jane).

This is one of Austen’s most mature novels. Not only are the characters older — Anne Elliot is 27 and sorrow has robbed her of her youthful bloom — but the plot is less about teenage romance and more about second-chances. This is also one of Austen’s most biting novels. Her sarcasm and satire are deeper and more obvious than they are in her other novels. Perhaps most interestingly, Austen satirizes the landed gentry, depicting them as foppish and idiotic. Her true admiration — just as Anne’s — is reserved for the navy.

Anne is an intriguing character because she has none of the prejudices that other Austen characters have. Open-minded and caring, Anne takes care of everyone she’s in contact with, whether it’s her hypochondriac sister, her poverty-stricken classmate, or the lovesick friend of her ex-fiance. She’s also a girl that sticks to her guns, come what may. She earns this trait after being persuaded by her mother-figure to break off an engagement with the man she loves (who has no title and no wealth — but is a rising star in the navy. Austen’s favoritism is obvious from the first page).

What’s more, this book isn’t your typical courtship story. We never see Anne and Captain Wentworth’s courtship, we only see the slow piecing-back-together of their relationship. In some ways, this is more compelling than Austen’s courtship stories, which revolve around young women who snare their men through a combination of youthful beauty, strong personality, and improbable coincidences. Persuasion preserves the improbable coincidences, but it focuses more on the ways that relationships are maintained over time and what it takes to remain happy with a person.

Each time I read this novel, it strikes me in a different way. That is why it’s one of my favorite books. It comments on so many different themes — family, love, money, power, control, friendship — and it makes illuminating revelations about all of them. It isn’t quite as saccharine as Pride and Prejudice, but it maintains the basic premise of Pride and Prejudice: the path to love is full of bumps and lost ways, but the journey is well worth it because love makes us grow and, in the best cases, makes us open our eyes and become better people.

What’s your favorite book? Tell me all about it in the comments!