Friday, March 1, 2013

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

genre: memoir, book-love

When our author begins to read his first Austen (Emma), he's sort of, well, a jerk.  Maybe "jerk" is too strong of a word.  Arrogant?  Snobbish?  In other words, not a particularly pleasant guy, certainly too intellectual to find life lessons in a ladies novel.  Except, somehow, Emma catches him by surprise in a way that no other book has - it teaches him enough about who he is and how he is getting it all wrong that William's life takes an abrupt turn.  He not only begins studying Austen with a more exacting lens, but he begins to find deep and profound lessons for life within the pages of her books and slowly allows himself to change for the better.

The book goes through each of Jane Austen's novels and does some pretty impressive work of delving into not just her writing but also her life and experiences.  While at first I was worried that he'd really be pushing it, to have THIS much to say about life lessons learned by Jane Austen, it was surprisingly filling!  While discussing each book, he teaches us what we can learn about friendship or love or community from the text and then how he applied it to his own life.  That's just interesting.  I never, ever, got so much out of reading the novels themselves - although I did love them, of course. I almost want to read them again with all of this in my head.

My only real problem was that sometimes he drove me a little batty.  He draws himself as such an obnoxious character that I can't help but wonder if he's just exaggerating for effect, and so that turned me off a little bit - but I am still very glad I read it, just to get my brain's wheels spinning in a completely different direction for a while.

note: if you're interested in the content of the books I read, please go to

1 comment:

Melissa Fox said...

Yep, I felt the same way. Which is why I'm rereading Jane's books this year. :-D

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