I didn't much care for Persuasion the first time I read it, and to be honest even now it remains among the Jane Austen novels that I like but wouldn't number among my favorite books. However, I will say that reading it a second time definitely improved my opinion. I think the problem lies in the characters - unlikeable ones such as Sir Walter and Miss Elliott simply aren't as unlikeable as say Mr. Collins and Wickham in Pride & Prejudice. And as for the heroes - especially Anne and Captain Wentworth - well, they just aren't as loveable as the forward-thinking outspoken Elizabeth Bennett and the stoic yet kind Mr. Darcy. And their story isn't as heart-wrenching as those of the Dashwood sisters of Sense & Sensibility.
What Persuasion does have, though, is something closer to the life of Jane Austen herself - a family running out of money, a woman nearing spinster age forced to move to Bath (a place she hates). For that, I have to love this novel just a little bit more than I thought I would or did. 3.5/5 stars.
"It sometimes happens, that a woman is handsomer at twenty-nine than she was ten years before; and, generally speaking, if there has been neither ill health nor anxiety, it is a time of life at which scarcely any charm is lost."
"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older - the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning."
"To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all."
"Anne always contemplated [the Musgrove sisters] as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments."
"'If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it...'"
"'We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.'"
"Anne...admired again the sort of necessity which the family-habits seemed to produce, of every thing being to be communicated, and every thing being to be done together, however undesired and inconvenient."
"...nor could she help fearing...that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination."
"...a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness, as a very resolute character."
"She left it all behind her; all but the recollection that such things had been."
"'The notions of a young man of one or two and twenty...as to what is necessary in manners to make him quite the thing, are more absurd, I believe, than those of any other set of beings in the world. The folly of the means they often employe is only to be equalled by the folly of what they have in view.'"
"She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others."
"'One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering...'"
"'I will not allow it to be more man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved.'"
"Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands.'"
"'I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by women.'"
"'All the privilege I claim for my own sex...is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.'"
"'You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.'"
"...they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union...more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting."
"'If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty...'"
"When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other's ultimate comfort."
"There is a quickness of perception in some, a nicety in the discernment of character, a natural penetration, in short, which no experience in others can equal..."
"...to flatter and follow others, without being flattered and followed in turn, is but a state of half enjoyment."