Ciara's Reviews > A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
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's review
Jun 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: autobio-memoir, read-in-2011

i wasn't sure what to expect from this book, as i am not a huge jane austen fan. i picked it up because i read a few glowing reviews, & i was pleasantly surprised to find that i agreed! the book is divided into six sections, one for each of jane austen's novels. the author focuses on a particular lesson that he learned from each book, such as "growing up" or "learning to love". he focuses mainly on literary analysis of said topic, relying on liberal quotations from the novels & descriptions of the characters, plotlines, & settings. but he also weaves some of his own biography into the mix, which was the aspect i enjoyed most. he is not shy about making fun of his youthful self & his many pretensions, assumptions, & mistakes. i don't think you have to be well-versed in jane austen's ouevre in order to enjoy this book, but i'm sure it wouldn't hurt.

one of my favorite things about the book is the fact that the author acknowledged that when he started graduate school, he had his little stable of favorite authors, all of them, all of them writing about masculine topics, like war or hunting. when he was assigned a jane austen book for a class, he balked, thinking of her as the godmother of chick lit, writing only about frivolous topics of no interest to a man with his many opinions about the western canon. but over the course of reading emma & relating to the smug, opinionated main character, he realized that austen's strength was in turning the mirror on a self-satisfied reader & showing him the folly of his ways. throughout the rest of the book, the author draws connections between austen's characters & themes & feminism, both in mariage & property law, & in canonical literature. it is SO RARE to read a book written by a man that even uses the word "feminism" in passing, let alone applies a feminist lens to the subject matter. & usually when it does happen, it's all botched & embarrassing. so in that respect, this book was a tremendous breath of fresh air. maybe i will read some of austen's books myself this summer.
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message 1: by Dave (new)

Dave I'd also recommend the Masterpiece Theatre productions that came out in 2008 or so.

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