Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Jane Austen Education

How six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter.

The title is telling, but I was deceived by the playful jacket illustration. I believed I was going to read a trendy life-according-to-Jane-Austen confection, more sugar and air than substance. Instead, A Jane Austen Education allowed me to eavesdrop on a college course intended for English Lit majors.

William Deresiewicz was an English professor at Yale until recently, and his literary criticism cred shows. Each novel is treated carefully as a jewel: the critical overview of the story is interwoven with events from Jane Austen's life, and the meaning Deresiewicz took and applied to his own life. Each novel is credited with teaching him an essential life lesson, helping him mature from an angry young man to an adult who says, at the end, "Reader, I married her."

If an abbreviated course on the novels of Jane Austen sounds appealing, this is the book for you. I could see myself, in the right mood, reading this again.


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