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What Matters in Jane Austen – John Mullan


I finished reading this book – it is a interesting read and makes me want to read the novels again (that has to be a good thing).

Here is the description …

┬áIs there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call each other, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? And which important Austen characters never speak? In What Matters in Austen, John Mullan shows that you can best appreciate Jane Austen’s brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction – by asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals their devilish cleverness. In twenty-one short chapters, each of which answers a question prompted by Jane Austen’s novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most to the workings of the fiction. So the reader will discover when people had their meals and what shops they went to, how they addressed each other, who was allowed to write letters to whom, who owned coaches or pianos, how vicars got good livings and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Austen explores the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and sheer daring as a novelist. Though not a book about Jane Austen’s life, it uses biographical detail and telling passages from her letters to explain episodes in her novels; readers will find out, for example, what novels she read or how much money she had to live on or what she saw at the theatre. Inspired by an enthusiastic reader’s curiosity, written with flair and based on a lifetime’s study, What Matters in Austen will appeal to all those who love and enjoy Jane Austen’s work.

There are chapters on: “What do the characters call each other”, “How much money is enough”, “Which important characters never speak”, etc. Did you know that the only married couple to use each others first names is Charles and Mary Musgrove? This book is crammed full of interesting information and also highlights parts that a contemporary reader what have interpreted differently to a modern reader. Mr Mullan has an easy (can I say non-academic) writing style, which makes this book a pleasure to read.

I think this book is a must not only for Austen fans, but for anyone interested in English Literature and the development of the novel.

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