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Books Read in 2014: WHAT MATTERS IN JANE AUSTEN? by John Mullan

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan

Book Description (from Amazon):
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. …

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.


My Review

4 of 5 stars

      Goodreads Bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, nonfiction-regency-era, nonfiction-biography, non-fiction-literary-criticism

      Read from January 06 to 15, 2014

I haven’t quite finished this one yet, but it’s going to be one of those books I can pick up, read a chapter, be satisfied, and then come back to it weeks or months later without losing anything.

Each chapter focuses on a topic present in Austen’s writing—sisters, mourning, weather, etc.—and then presents examples both from her fiction and from her letters, drawing conclusions and inferences on how and why these topics were important.

As a work of literary criticism, it’s subtle. It really is an exploration to derive and infer what was important in the life of Austen herself by looking at twenty narrowly focused ideas/themes in Austen’s writing, rather than philosophizing on the stories, the characters, etc. It’s a good look at the psychology and sociology of the society in which Austen and her characters find themselves in early 19th Century rural/suburban England.

As I look to get back to writing something set in this era, it will be a great resource for me to both refresh my memory of and teach me about the unique aspects of the late-Georgian/Regency era.

Table of contents from the book:

  1. How Much Does Age Matter?
  2. Do Sisters Sleep Together
  3. What Do the Characters Call Each Other?
  4. How Do Jane Austen’s Characters Look?
  5. Who Dies in the Course of Her Novels?
  6. Why Is It Risky to Go to the Seaside?
  7. Why Is the Weather Important?
  8. Do We Ever See the Lower Classes?
  9. Which Important Characters Never Speak in the Novels?
  10. What Games Do Characters Play?
  11. Is There Any Sex in Jane Austen?
  12. What Do Characters Say When the Heroine Is Not There?
  13. How Much Money Is Enough?
  14. Why Do Her Plots Rely on Blunders?
  15. What Do Characters Read?
  16. Are Ill People Really to Blame for Their Illnesses?
  17. What Makes Characters Blush?
  18. What Are the Right and Wrong Ways to Propose Marriage?
  19. When Does Jane Austen Speak Directly to the Reader?
  20. How Experimental a Novelist Is Jane Austen?

And by reading this, it prompted me to go back and binge-watch all 100 webisodes of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last weekend. If you’ve never watched it, you should, even if you don’t consider yourself a Jane Austen or Pride and Prejudice fan.

One Comment


  1. What Are You Reading? (February 2014) |

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