10 April 2013

What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved

Summary from Goodreads:
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.

Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

With the 100th birthday of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and that of her later works coming in rapid succession, there's been an uptick in the publication of Austen biographies and literature studies.  What Matters in Jane Austen? is a bit different.  It's a cross between a cultural history and a mini-course on Austen's writing.  John Mullan uses questions like "Who dies in Austen?", "Which characters don't speak?", and so on to comment on customs in Austen's day and pull out themes across Austen's books. A relatively quick read for a lit crit book but a really good introduction to Austen studies.

Dear FTC: I purchased this book.  Because, duh, Jane Austen.

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