Dear Miss Austen,Ummm... Anne Elliot is past her youth and bloom??? Heh? She is MY AGE! Scratch that - she is younger than me. **..........Basically, get off my lawn, kids. I mean it..............In all seriousness, this is the first Jane Austen book that does not feature a pretty and charming teenager looking for a perfect match in a cultured and rich gentleman. Instead, her protagonist Anne Elliot is well into the respectable age of seven-and-twenty, equipped with composure and maturity that only age can bring. (Hey, maybe advanced age is not so bad, after all! But I happily maintain that mentally I'm still eleven. Oh, and as I said, get off my lawn!)Anne finds herself in a quite uncomfortable situation. Years ago, she was engaged to a dashing young sailor whom she subsequently rejected on the well-meaning but ultimately flawed advice of a trusted friend. Now that sailor, having transformed into a respectable and well-to-do, and still dashing Captain Wentworth, reenters Anne's circle of acquaintances, clearly still resenting Anne, and appears to be actively looking for a younger prettier future spouse. All that while Anne, ruined by age (just kidding, she is still quite pretty, as it turns out) realizes she still harbors her old affection for him but needs (of course!) to maintain all the necessary societal proprieties.On top of all of that, Anne has the most rotten family! Her father is a pathetic handsome gentleman unhealthily obsessed with his own good looks (I mean, the man has a bedroom full of mirrors! Puh-lease.) Her younger sister will claw your eyes out if she were to think you'd eclipse her as a center of attention even for a minute (this is a woman who feels slighted if her dying son gets more attention than she does), and will spend hours sending little verbal put-downs in Anne's direction while shamelessly using her help for anything imaginable. And yet, this pathetic creature is still "not so repulsive and unsisterly as Elizabeth", the older sister. "To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all."And all of Anne's family members seem to compete with each other in how to best put down Anne - the treatment that she easily sees but tolerates without complaining and in good spirits. Oh, and they have to downsize because all the vain and shallow family members are quite rotten at preserving the family fortune.Basically, to sum up: .Anne Elliot is a well-mannered, reasonable, proper, and sensible heroine. Good thing she is NOT the one narrating this story, or it would have been quite bland. Instead, we are treated to a quite snarky (albeit within strict early-19th-century British sensibilities) narrative voice, picking apart all of our characters and their environment with a lovely and a bit sarcastic commentary. Ah, Miss Austen, you were really getting fed up with your well-mannered society, weren't you? And I love it.I love how delightfully drama-free this story is. No huge events, no shocking twists, nothing except for reasonable behavior and not-too-exciting provincial life (well, in all honesty, excepting two near-fatal falls, at least one of which was getting me all worried about epidural vs. subdural hematoma, which is no joke). The only hint of strong passion is in a short letter from Wentworth to Anne, and even then the declaration of love is done in a subdued epistolary form. And it is precisely this quiet flow of the story that creates an enjoyable atmosphere, strangely............................"But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days."And another thing that I came to appreciate is the attempt to decry the classism of English society. The most admirable people in this book are not the gentlemen by birth, unlike the proverbial Mr. Darcy (ughh) but the naval officers and their circles - Wentworth and the Crofts especially. It's like Austen was finally acknowledging that it's not only the birth into the gentry class that makes you a decent person. Way to go, Miss Austen! Congratulations on succeeding in making all your hypocritical gentlemen with overblown feeling of self-importance appear to be total idiots like they should be: "A man is in greater danger in the navy of being insulted by the rise of one whose father, his father might have disdained to speak to, and of becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other line."A lovely 3.5-star book. It does not quite reach the 4-star enjoyment of Jane Eyre, but it is a delightful book with which to spend an overcast day filled with bronchitis cough. "Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him that, like all other qualities of the mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness as a very resolute character."