Books

Book 502: Jane Austen, the Secret Radical – Helena Kelly

Perhaps I’m too smart for my own good, but overall this book was a bit disappointing. With a title like Jane Austen, the Secret Radical, you’d expect there to be revelations of sorts and yet there weren’t. I mean that’s why I requested a copy from the publisher.* I was hoping as the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death rapidly approaches there’d be something completely new and innovative to talk about, but there wasn’t.

Sure Kelly highlighted a few things that I missed when reading Austen, but really she just expounded upon the things that those of us who don’t read Austen ONLY as a romance novelist, but as a social commentator hopefully picked up on. She provided more detail of course, especially when it came to names and places, but overall there just weren’t a lot of revelations.

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Books

Book 329: A Jane Austen Education – William Deresiewicz

Deresiewicz, William - A Jane Austen EducationWarning: Goodreads rant – skip to second paragraph. I’m not sure what jumped up everyone’s butts on Goodreads (I shouldn’t really be surprised), but this book doesn’t deserve as much vitriol as it has received on the site. So many people trashed it without even finishing the book, many obviously had read the synopsis (Amazon Affiliate link) and yet were shocked at what they read.

The book definitely deserves a lot of the criticism, but it doesn’t deserve the pure vitriol that Goodread’s reviewers thew at it. Sure, I wanted to smack Deresiewicz for being an insufferable grad student, but it’s very clear in the synopsis that the book was going to be full of naval gazing. He made a couple of questionable sexist and classist comments and he may have reduced a lot of Austen’s genius down to basics, but it would definitely work for people who are not familiar with Austen. Seriously, if you can’t find the good in a book, why bother finishing and trashing it? Just move on to the next book.

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ARC, Books

Book 327: What Matters in Jane Austen? – John Mullan

Mullen, John - What Matters in Jane AustenNeither a bad end to 2014, nor a bad start to 2015, this was well worth the read. It wasn’t all I thought it would be, but considering it was a galley I got ages ago (2012 I think) and never read (Sorry!) I’m glad I finally read it. I think I’m going to spend a lot of time with Austen this year. A few friends and I are doing a Jane Austen book club and I have quite a bit of non-fiction I’m looking forward to reading about Austen and her life. I hope everyone sticks with me throughout! I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and received nothing in return for my honest response.

What worked best for this book was the selecting of 20 themes and then talking about them across Austen’s novels. I’ve read all of her novels at least once and a few of them much more. You can look at the chapter titles to see the themes, but the ones that stood out most to me where when Mullan spoke about Austen’s mastery of novels and groundbreaking skills as a writer.

“She did things with fiction that had never been done before. She did things with characterization, with dialogue, with English sentences, that had never been done before.”

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