Persuasion, Jane Austen's last finished piece of work, is very different from her earlier novels. The main character, Anne Elliot, at 27 years old, is older than any other Austen heroine, and the greatest romance in her life has apparently taken place more than seven years before the novel begins. She had been courted by a dashing but penniless young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, and had accepted him. Then, persuaded by a wary older friend that the marriage would not work out well, she broke the engagement, hence the name Persuasion. Since that unhappy event, Anne has led a life of almost total loneliness. Anne's mother, who shared her intelligence and sensitivity, died when Anne was 14. Her father, Sir Walter, and her two sisters are small-minded, self-obsessed, and disapproving of Anne. Only Anne's determination kept her from giving in to sympathy and bitterness.
When Sir Walter is forced to let out his estate to an admiral returning from the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), Anne discovers that the admiral's wife is a sister to the now promoted and wealthy Captain Wentworth. He then returns back into to Anne's life, but he still dislikes her having broken their earlier engagement and begins courting another, younger woman. Over time Anne and Wentworth are slowly attracted to on another again, and this time it is Wentworth who learns from Anne that his values are wrong, not the other way around, as in Emma. .
Researchers now argue how Austen's failing physical condition during the last year of her life affected her work. Yet Sanditon, the novel she startd a few months before her death and left unfinished, explores uncertainties of appearance and the difficulties of reasoning, with a confident method and an expressive tone that shows improvement even from Pride and Prejudice and Emma. .
Several other incomplete novels were published after Austen's death. These include The Watsons (1923), Fragment of a Novel (1925), and Plan of a Novel (1926).