While Austen herself is more than worthy of one of these posts I want to focus first on what I like to call the forgotten Jane Austen novel; Persuasion.
When the novel starts Anne Elliot is a still single woman of 27, the middle daughter of a vain baronet. At the tender age of 19 she met and fell in love with the handsome Captain Wentworth who in turn fell in love with her. They had already decided to marry each other when Anne is persuaded to break off the engagement by her family and especially her late mother’s best friend, Lady Russel. He is, of course, very angry and sails off to multiple succesful commands. And when Napoleon is defeated and peace comes and he is again at liberty to look for a wife he resolves to marry any young lady as long as she isn’t Anne Elliot. She on the other hand has since their engagement refused another man who had been approved by her relations because he just wasn’t Frederik Wentworth. From then on the story takes off in many ways both expected and not.
In a sense Persuasion is very much a typical Jane Austen book. But in many other senses it’s much more mature and, for Austen, even a little gritty. There’s a lot of critique and even sarcasm toward Bath and the shallow society that used to hang out there. Even the characters seem more compelling than in many of her other works. In my opinion this is the best among Austen’s works.
If you’ve never read Jane Austen, start with this one. If you have but haven’t read Persuasion, go out and find it immediately if not sooner.