book cover

   May 2006

by Jane Austen

[ Barnes and Nobles Book Summary ]


When Persuasion was published posthumously in 1818, only a small circle of people knew of and admired Jane Austen's novels. Since that date, however, Austen has come to be one of the world's most widely read and most beloved authors. She claimed once to her nephew, who would later write her biography, “the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush produces little effect after much labour.” Scholars and readers, however, have overwhelmingly disagreed with her assessment that her work produces "little effect," finding her to be a conscious artist and astute social critic. In Persuasion, her last novel, Austen continues to present in minute detail the daily lives of her characters, upper-middle-class men and women living in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This novel perhaps is her most romantic, centering on postponed but enduring love. Anne Elliot, the story's heroine, suffers from a decision that was forced upon her several years ago—to break off a relationship with the man she deeply loved. As Austen examines the causes and consequences of this action, she offers a penetrating critique of the standards of the British class system and the narrow-mindedness of those who strictly subscribe to them. The novel's witty realism helped guarantee Austen's position as one of the finest novelists.

About the Author

Jane Austen was an English novelist whose books, set amongst the English middle and upper classes, are notable for their wit, social observation and insights into the lives of early 19th century women.

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire. She was one of eight children of a clergyman and grew up in a close-knit family. She began to write as a teenager. In 1801 the family moved to Bath. After the death of Jane's father in 1805 Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother moved several times eventually settling in Chawton, near Steventon.

Jane’s brother Henry helped her negotiate with a publisher and her first novel, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, appeared in 1811. Her next novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, which she described as her “own darling child” received highly favourable reviews. ‘Mansfield Park‘ was published in 1814, then ‘Emma’ in 1816. ‘Emma’ was dedicated to the Prince Regent, an admirer of her work. All of Jane Austen's novels were published anonymously.

In 1816, Jane began to suffer from ill-health, probably due to Addison's disease. She travelled to Winchester to receive treatment, and died there on 18 July 1817. Two more novels, ‘Persuasion’ and ’Northanger Abbey’ were published posthumously and a final novel was left incomplete.