This is the first Jane Austen book that I have read. I was not intentionally avoiding Austen's writing...just never had the urge to read anything by her. At the end of last year, I compiled a list of books that I probably should have read by this point in my life, as well as authors that I should probably be familiar with. Austen made the second list.
In some ways Persuasion reminded me of Anna Karenina. Both Tolstoy and Austen were writing about the societies in which they lived. Granted, Austen takes a comedic approach, skewering the "sensibilities" of the British upperclass. Like Anna Karenina, Persuasion is full of characters (albeit not as many principles as AK) with complex family relations and convoluted romantic situations.
The main character, and one of the few consistently likable characters throughout the novel, is Anne Elliot. Her father and older sister are the epitome of obnoxious, elitist socialites; and are rarely depicted in any way other than despicable. It would be impossible to adequately describe the various characters that inhabit the pages of Persuasion without this review pushing the lengths of common sense (i.e. Christopher's Goblet of Fire review).
Anne is largely surrounded by vacuous people, many of whom are vying for beneficial marriages. Anne is not. She almost married a young man many years back, but backed out at the last minute at the behest of a close friend. But this man, Captain Wentworth, reappears and stirs up her otherwise stolid life.
I often had a little trouble keeping some of the characters straight. Some were not fleshed out as much as others, so when they reappeared after being absent for many pages, I had a little trouble remembering who they were. It didn't help that there were at least three characters named Charles. I thought this was an odd thing for Austen to do. I wonder if it was Austen's way of subtly conveying the air of confusion that surround these people and their relationships.
I liked the book well enough to read something else by Austen.