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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"What Matters in Jane Austen" ~ by John Mullan


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.

Published by:  Bloomsbury USA
Pages:  Approx. 352
Genre:  Non-fiction
Purchase:  Barnes and Noble

John Mullan is a professor in the English department at University College London and the author of How Novels Work. He writes a popular column on fiction for the Guardian, and has served as a judge for the Man Booker Prize. Mullan lectures widely on Jane Austen around the world.

"What Matters in Jane Austen" is one of those rare scholarly books that is wonderfully written~witty, comprehensive and extremely joyful to read.  I was seriously enchanted by it, and couldn't put it down for  hours.

If there is one critique; however, it would be that those who haven't read Miss Austen's books might often be lost in the joy of reading this one.  A familiarity with characters, settings and minute details is necessary to understand the rare tidbits of Mr. Mullan's book.  Once you have passed over those mighty bridges, however, this book will surely play a big part on your Austen shelves.

More than just learning more about the social contracts present in Austen's books, this "tell all" goes into depths about such things as why Austen chooses certain names to convey personality, how sisters matter, and what makes the way characters address each other vastly important.  And, why didn't she often give specific details about her characters' appearances?  I especially enjoyed the section on "What Her Characters Read." These questions and more are answered or discussed in the book to great satisfaction, making a new read of Miss Austen a must!

A rich and revolutionary new vision of Jane Austen, this is a book I can highly recommend!

5 stars                           Deborah/TheBookishDame




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