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The story concerns Anne Elliot, a young Englishwoman of 27 years, whose family is moving to lower their expenses and get out of debt, at the same time as the wars come to an end, putting sailors on shore. They rent their home to an Admiral and his wife. The wife's brother, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, had been engaged to Anne in 1806, and now they meet again, both single and unattached, after no contact in more than seven years. This sets the scene for many humorous encounters as well as a second, well-considered chance at love and marriage for Anne Elliot in her second "bloom".
The novel was well-received in the early 19th century. Greater fame came later in the century, continued in the 20th century, and through to the 21st century. Much scholarly debate on Austen's work has since been published. Anne Elliot is noteworthy among Jane Austen's heroines for her relative maturity. As Persuasion is Austen's last completed novel, it is accepted as her most maturely written novel showing a refinement of literary conception indicative of a woman approaching forty years of age. Unlike Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, the novel Persuasion was not rewritten from earlier drafts of novels which Austen had originally started before 1800. Her use of free indirect discourse in narrative was by 1816 fully developed and in full evidence. The first edition of Persuasion was co-published with the previously unpublished Northanger Abbey, written in 1803; later editions of both were published separately.
Popular acceptance of the novel was reflected, by two notable made-for-television filmed adaptations released first in Britain: Amanda Root starred in the lead role in the 1995 version co-starring Ciarán Hinds, and was followed by Sally Hawkins in the 2007 version made for ITV1 co-starring Rupert Penry-Jones.