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Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen
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Letters to Alice: On First Reading Jane Austen

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  743 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
Inspired by a series of instructive letters written by Austen to a novel-writing niece, Letters to Alice is an epistolary novel in which an important modern writer responds to her niece's complaint that Jane Austen is boring and irrelevant. By turns passionate and ironic, "Aunt Fay" makes Alice think--not only about books and literature, but also life and culture.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 9th 1999 by Basic Books (first published 1984)
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Ah. Compulsory school reading. Isn't it delightful?!

I think it a slight flaw of the school system to make books that are as boring as hell compulsory (actually Hell would probably be a bit more exciting, all fiery and whatnot). Why? Do these people like torturing kids? Do they get a perverse pleasure out of turning our brains to goo?

Answer: yes. Yes they do.

This book can be summed up as so:
- Coconuts fall from trees
- Jane Austen is cool but radical
- Midwifery is a hazardous occupation
- Croc
Jacqueline Ogburn
Mar 20, 2010 Jacqueline Ogburn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
One of my favorite books about writers and writing. In the form of letters from an aunt, who is published literary novelist, to her niece who is in college and such that Jane Austen has nothing to say to her. Of course, Weldon explains exactly how much Jane Austen has to say. I have always loved the extended metaphor of novelist as builders in the city of literature, with different neighborhoods, and the English language side of town presided over by the great Castle Shakespeare.
Dec 04, 2015 leonie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
i recommend this book to you if you are blind
Oct 26, 2015 Dom rated it did not like it
Rating this one star as 0 stars is not an option
Ann Herendeen
Nov 09, 2012 Ann Herendeen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-recently
"Alice" is a fictional character, the author, Fay Weldon, signs her letters to this nonexistent niece "your aunt Fay" and most of the book reads more like essays than a novel. Sounds ghastly, right? It probably is if you read it at the wrong moment.

Like many people who loved this book, I received it as a gift, put it aside, and then started reading one day when I was in the right mood. And BAM! I was hooked and read this short piece in an afternoon (127 pages in this edition). It definitely help
Feb 20, 2012 joey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gift-i-gave, fiction
What a fun read for fans of Fay Weldon! It is a real treat for her fans to peek over her shoulder while she pens her epistolary experiment! One need not be a fan of Jane Austen, but if one is, well, all the better!

Alas, one need be a fan of Weldon, and I had not read her, so all the worse! She seems to have been quite prolific, but this is not the Weldon novel to begin with, I suspect, as it seems more of a playful, self-indulgent, but ultimately failed experiment, a sort of "romp" through an es
Ana T.
Dec 14, 2007 Ana T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend - thank you Dee - once sent me this book after a conversation about Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She mentioned it as a sort of introduction to Jane Austen and her world. Last month I finally decided to pick it up.

The book is comprised of a number of letters that an aunt, who happens to be a published writer, sends to her niece, who is doing an English major at the University but doesn't want to read Jane Austen. So the letters starts by addressing Austen, her world, beliefs and so
Dec 31, 2015 Jenny rated it it was ok
Shelves: for-english
The things I have to read for English. I wouldn't read this on my spare time - and I love books.
Feb 16, 2017 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
La nièce (imaginaire) de l'auteur lui fait part de sa difficulté à lire et aimer Jane Austen et en même temps de son envie d'écrire elle-même un roman. Sa tante lui répond sur ses sujets mais disserte également sur la littérature en général et la vie des auteurs et c'est ces lettres qui sont regroupés dans cet ouvrage.

Fay Weldon est une sommité dans la monde austenien et j'avais donc très envie de découvrir ce qu'elle avait à dire sur Jane Austen. De plus, nous les janéites, avons souvent étaie
Kris - My Novelesque Life

(I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review).

"With the dire warning, “You must read, Alice, before it’s too late,” Fay Weldon, or “Aunt Fay,” implores her “niece” to immerse herself in the works of enduring authors. Alternating between passages from Jane Austen’s novels and accounts of her own career, Weldon reveals the connections between art and life, and charts Alice’s trajectory from unpublished writer to celebrated author, her success ultimately outstripping
Feb 14, 2013 Penguin rated it did not like it
Fay Weldon's use of an invented niece is flimsy at best, and this combined with several oddities immediately set this book to the side. When one then considers that this is pretty clearly an excuse on Weldon's part to ramble about her opinions on writing and Jane Austen (some of her writing theory is very sound, some of her Austen theory is utterly bizarre), this novel becomes incredibly tedious. There are no spoilers to be had with this book, unless you deign to mention that this is barely pro ...more
Silvia Frassineti
City of invention.
Eva De Jonge
Jun 16, 2015 Eva De Jonge rated it really liked it
Geweldig boek. Niet alleen als je van Jane Austen houdt, maar ook als je van boeken en schrijven in het algemeen houdt.
Aug 18, 2014 Jim rated it liked it
I picked this book because I haven’t read—and had no intention of reading—anything by Jane Austen; as with Agatha Christie, Dickens and Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes I’ve seen enough dramatizations so as to feel as if I’ve read the entire canon. That said I’m well aware that even the best-intentioned adaptation will still miss much, so maybe there was a case for Austen and I was willing to be persuaded. I wasn’t sure what to expect of these letters but they turned out to be what they couldn’t avoid be ...more
Feb 23, 2017 Sophie rated it it was ok
Shelves: school, non-fiction, 2017
ugh well at least it's over now

review to come
Jan 15, 2013 Bookguide rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jane Austen fans, writers, students of literature
This is the third time I attempted to read this book. I was sure it would be good, but the first couple of times, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind for something which made me think, as this did. Books written as fictional letters or diaries are very often humorous, in my experience: 84, Charing Cross Road, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, to name but a few. Fay Weldon's letters are to a fictional niece ...more
Colleen Stone
Apr 08, 2013 Colleen Stone rated it really liked it
Shelves: oddities, feminist
This didn't get five stars from me ... Even though on some levels it deserved it. So lets get it (the stumbling block) out of the way before I start praising the book up.

And here it is: Despite being really interested in the ideas in this book, I found myself labouring at times through dense passages and complex sentences with little of the relief that is usually provided by action, drama and/or dialogue. I had to discipline myself to keep going.

But I'm so glad I did! I loved the story being to
May 30, 2012 Kate rated it did not like it
first of all id like to say that i have not long read this for english to analyse, write about etc, and english honestly can ruin alot of books so i dont think my judgement is entirely fair as i wasnt reading for enjoyment. so i dont mean to offend those who like this book, as did find aspects i liked about it such as the relatedness of it to today society and the letters are more personal and feel as though they are connecting with me aswell, possibly because i am still in school and can relate ...more
Tallulah A. Scribbles
More about love of literature than Austen

I stumbled across Fay Weldon in researching the 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. Weldon wrote the screenplay for the adaptation so I had high expectations for her book, “Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen.” I was expecting something witty, eloquent, and thoughtful. And I got that. However, I felt that the book was an interesting exposition on the importance and rele
Kathy Dolan
Feb 05, 2012 Kathy Dolan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Elizabeth Bennet, that wayward, capricious girl, listening to the beat of feeling, rather than the pulsing urge for survival, paying attention to the subtle demands for human dignity rather than the cruder ones of established convention, must have upset quite a number of her readers, changed their minds, and with their minds, their lives, and with their lives, the society they lived in: prodding it quicker and faster along the slow, difficult road that has led us out of barbarity into civilisat ...more
Dec 10, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: library
After blankly stating that Jane Austen had “bored herself” partway through Lesley Castle and thus never finished it, Weldon quickly adds:
I hate this kind of cold conclusion; these sweeping assessments of motive with which, in the present, we look back at the past. I despise it in biographers, and yet find I am doing it myself. ... The reasons she stopped writing Lesley Castle may have been because she ran out of paper, or shut her thumb on in the lych-gate of Steventon Church the previous Sunday
Emma Robinson
Letters to Alice is an epistolary text, written in the post modern context and from the perspective of Aunt Fay, who writes letters to her niece Alice. Throughout the text, Austen makes many explicit (and some implicit) references to Jane Austen - firstly by persuading Alice that canonical literature is able to morally shape an individual. She advocates this to Alice, as Alice intends to write a novel living in the post modern context - so Aunt Fay is ensuring she understands the value of proper ...more
Jun 27, 2011 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This seems a strange conceit for a book, a series of letters in which an aunt explains the value of Jane Austen’s fiction and fiction in general to her niece. More often than not, the letter writer is clearly Fay Weldon so it's a strange mashup of fiction and non-fiction. Though I guess this format makes it more accessible than a series of essays.

I enjoyed her idea of the City of Invention, an extended metaphor Weldon develops for the whole world of fiction from great works of literature to airp
Luciana Darce
Mar 13, 2014 Luciana Darce rated it liked it
Não tenho bem certeza quem foi que chamou minha atenção para esse título, mas seu que foi a menção à Jane Austen que me fez ir atrás dele para coloca-lo na estante.

Letters to Alice tem uma premissa interessante: uma tia escritora que se corresponde com a sobrinha que dá os primeiros passos na mesma carreira – cartas que falam de escolhas, da paixão pela literatura, do ofício de escrever e, claro, de tia Jane.

O livro é rico em informações e metáforas grandiloquentes. Pra mim, que conheço e amo Au
“Truly Alice, books are wonderful things; to sit alone in a room and laugh and cry, because you are reading, and still be safe when you close the book; and having finished it, discover you are changed, yet unchanged! To be able to visit the City of Invention at will, depart at will – that is all, really, education is about, should be about.”

"If it's approval you want, don't be a writer,"

“Sometimes you’ll find quite a shoddy building so well placed and painted that it quite takes the visitor in,
Jul 12, 2013 Malvina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some slight spoilers included.
This was a surprise book, suggested to me by someone. It reads as letters, epistolary style, from an aunt (Aunty Fay) to Alice, her English niece with punk hair studying literature and having an affair with her married professor (while her boyfriend is having an affair with the professor's wife). It's filled with comments about reading and novels and authors - Jane Austen in particular, and her life and times - and society (societies past and present) in general. It
Christopher Petersen
Sep 22, 2015 Christopher Petersen rated it really liked it
As required reading for school, I expected "Letters to Alice" to be uninteresting and boring. I love being wrong. As an aspiring author, this was an inspirational, informative and overall enjoyable read. I won't say too much here, simply because I recommned this book to any writers, authors or aspiring authors.
I will expand on one concept though, found earlier on in the book: The City of Invention. Essentially, this city is the embodiment of writing and all of its different styles and genres. A
Feb 29, 2012 Alexmac rated it liked it
Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen is a series of letters that the author Fay Weldon has written to her niece on the importance of Jane Austen in literature. Weldon sets these out as a number of life lessons that comment on the context and publications of Austen. Weldon challenges her neice Alice to look at the world in a different perspective as she examines marriage, culture, writing and literature.

However Weldons views are highly influenced by the waves of feminism in the 60s and 7
Nov 22, 2015 Elsa rated it it was amazing
My mother gave me this book as a birthday present when I was 14, and its one of those books I keep returning to again and again; its now 30 yrs later. Its a wonderful, thoughtful book of fictional letters - essays, really - loosely connected to Jane Austen but talking about writers, writing, class, gender, creative imagination and the reader's interaction with the imagined world of books. I've always loved the description of the city of literature, and the readers revulsion at Emmas bad behavior ...more
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Fay Weldon CBE is an English author, essayist and playwright, whose work has been associated with feminism. In her fiction, Weldon typically portrays contemporary women who find themselves trapped in oppressive situations caused by the patriarchal structure of British society.
More about Fay Weldon...

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“Truly Alice, books are wonderful things; to sit alone in a room and laugh and cry, because you are reading, and still be safe when you close the book; and having finished it, discover you are changed, yet unchanged! To be able to visit the City of Invention at will, depart at will – that is all, really, education is about, should be about.” 13 likes
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