Whether it’s “the season” or not, whether you live “in town” or in the country, it’s always a lovely time to read a Jane Austen novel. At least it is for me. And, while I do love the higher profile stories of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, possibly my favorite one has always been Persuasion.
Out now is a new version of Persuasion, this lesser-read, quieter novel of Jane Austen’s, filled with slow burns and words left unsaid instead of constant emotional ups and downs. The new version includes the book’s full text as well as replicas of important handwritten letters and printed documents from the story, recreated specially for this edition. Including Captain Wentworth’s letter. I’ve never read another letter as romantic as the one that Captain Wentworth wrote to Anne Elliot, and I don’t think I ever will. It’s utterly perfect.
Two years ago, I reviewed the Pride and Prejudice version of this special deluxe series. But, unlike the Pride and Prejudice version, Persuasion is a much shorter novel and thus makes for an easier-to-read, less unwieldy book in this special format. Also, unlike P&P, this one contains not only handwritten letters in gorgeous calligraphy, but also some other papers and documents relating to the story, such as a page out of the Baronetage, the concert bill from the musical performance in Bath, a color map of the city of Bath, and the Navy List, which the Musgrove girls obsessively refer to. Along with plenty of other surprises that I won’t spoil.
The letters and special documents appear just in time for you to want to refer to them, scattered throughout the book as they come up in the story. You can tell that the items have been researched in depth. In all, there are 15 items from the story that have been recreated. If you take the time to enjoy them, you’ll feel more immersed in the story, and in a world that often revolved around getting information second- and third-hand, sometimes waiting months to find out what happened to a loved one at sea, with people using all kinds of different means to make their mark in the world. (If you were a man, of course. Women had many fewer options.)
Persuasion: The Complete Novel, Featuring the Characters’ Letters and Papers, Written and Folded by Hand is obviously written by Jane Austen but it’s curated by Barbara Heller, who does a lovely job choosing and creating or commissioning the extra documents, with plenty of personal and historical touches to make it feel authentic. To the book pages themselves, she also adds an introduction and plenty of contextual information in the back about each of the replicas that were included.
These Handwritten Classics books from Chronicle Books aren’t the type to just throw in your bag and read anywhere—since they’re a bit more delicate than the average novel—but they’re for when you want to savor one of your favorite stories and feel like you have your hands on the actual documents included or referred to in the novel. The inserts sometimes make it hard to make the pages lie flat, but the slight inconvenience is worth dealing with for the added enjoyment. I have many different versions of all the Jane Austen novels, but I definitely make room on my shelf for these special variations; I really hope they do the whole set of Austen novels.
Persuasion curated by Barbara Heller is on sale now, and will be a treasured copy of the classic novel for any Jane Austen aficionado.
If you’re looking for a movie version of Persuasion to enjoy, I enjoy equally the 1997 version with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds and the 2007 version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, though each has some problematic issues as well. Perhaps one day a perfect version will be made. I have yet to see the new one, a somewhat anachronistic version on Netflix, but I’m sure I will at some point. Then quickly read the book again to erase it from my memory.
Note: I received a book sample for review purposes.