I have to admit, Jane Austen's Persuasion was just . . . pretty boring. The book mainly consists of the main character, Anne Elliot, hanging about until finally realizing that the man she really wants is a sailor whose love she turned away several years ago. Anne herself is not particularly interesting, nor are there the really fun, memorable characters like the father in Emma. The only dramatic incident in the book is one of Anne's acquaintances taking a tumble and bumping her head, but she's not really hurt and the whole incident is designed to help dispose of one of Anne's potential suitors. In six months I'll have completely forgotten what this book is about, but I will say it offers an interesting historical look at what daily life might be like in the lower-echelons of the the English gentry. It also demonstrates the high regard that Englishmen held for the navy as one of the few avenues for citizens of mundane birth to advance themselves into positions of power, wealth, and prestige.
For essays, John Wiltshire's "Modern Interpretations" discusses how, although the slow-moving and even mournful Persuasion was Austen's final published novel, she was working on a "high-spirited satire" at the time of her death. Wiltshire also talks about a couple of recent filmed versions of the book. Maggie Lane's "Regency Life" has an interesting discussion on the role of the navy during the period in which Austen was writing, as well as the use of seaside resorts as places visited for both recreation and their supposed medicinal effects. Caroline Sanderson's "Geographical Settings" focusses primarily on Bath and Lyme Regis, while Josephine Ross' "A Modern Perspective" offers an interesting portrait of Jane Austen's own failed romantic pursuits and how that may have influenced her writing.
Next: Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights