Any time I read Austen, I find myself much more interested in the settings than the actual story. This may be because I’m not a fan of romance, and at their core, most of Austen’s work revolve around character’s getting together. But her ability to place me so specifically in her settings is one of my favorite parts of the Austen novels.
In Persuasion, we move from the English countryside to the shore town of Lyme, and lastly to Bath. Until reading this, I’d never heard of Lyme, and now I want to go there. While it’s obvious that the places in Austen’s novels will no longer resemble the settings that reside in 2021, Austen’s ability to encapsulate these spaces in a way that would have been appreciated by her own audiences and still enrapture me reading this almost 200 years later is marvelous. I think part of the great appeal of the Austen novel, aside from the timelessness of people finding love, is the backdrop in which all these stories take place.
Persuasion isn’t much different in plot than most of Austen’s other novels; single, wealthy women are looking for formidable, hopefully wealthy husbands while navigating classism, societal standards, and everyone’s inability to forwardly state their affections (seriously, 90% of all Austen novels could be solved by everyone just vocalizing ‘hey, I like you; we’re a good match and should get married’). But the travel and backdrops of where Anne and Captain Wentworth go through their navigation of rekindling their romance is part of what makes this book magical for me.