I’m probably going to commit chick-lit suicide when I say this, “I have never fully read a single Jane Austen book.” Yes, it is true. I tried reading Pride and Prejudice in 6th grade and was quickly discouraged by my English teacher when she said, “that is going to be pretty ambitious.” She was right. (Thanks Ms. Miller!) I couldn’t keep all the girls straight. During our annual book sale, I fell in love with this cover and figured it would be a fun and quick read. So William Deresiewicz is the said man who wrote this book. I didn’t know what to think about him since this book is mostly literary drivel with a bit of personal memoir entwined with Yale pretentiousness. I actually work with a woman who is in the middle of writing her literary dissertation and she said the author was a very big name in the literary world. I did read the book with an open mind, and I knew the stories of all the books except Northanger Abbey. The author included specific excerpts of letters from Austen to various family members throughout the book, which helped to show what was going on in Austen’s life as each book was written. I do aspire to read Emma next year as a goal since I absolutely love the movie. Each Austen book has romance inside but it also examines the women in that specific time period. Sure, it seems like the only things women did back then was sit around and drink tea and fall in love while talking behind other women’s backs. It wasn’t a very interesting time in my opinion, so it has always been hard for me to think of this time with happiness. I feel that women who are only used as marriage bargaining chips are most likely very boring to read about. Well, Austen was ahead of her time and made her women as saucy as they could be and independent. I do think that Elizabeth Bennett is probably one of the best female characters ever created. It was nice to read that a red-blooded man could agree with this and glorify it throughout the book.
My favorite part of the book was when Deresiewicz spoke about his professor’s teaching style and inspiration. Since I work in education, it made me smile reading about that aspect of his life. Some of the chapters dragged more than others (Mansfield Park…. ugh…. that was a tough chapter to get through and it is stuck in the middle.) but I’d say if you like literary dissertations and were an English major then you would probably like this book.
Jen’s Rating: ***
On a sidenote, this was my 25th book of the year. Woo made my goal!