What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan Review
About the book: Is 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. My Review If you have read and loved all of Austen's books, this is a must read. Mullan takes several different topics and uses historical facts from Austen's time and excerpts from all of the books to give the reader a more in depth appreciation for Austen's work. What really impressed me was how Mullan brought things to my attention that I never noticed while reading Austen's work. For example, Mullan discusses how Austen has most characters speak, but a few we never hear anything from their own words at all and Mullan talks of the significance of keeping some characters quiet. I found it fascinating. I also really enjoyed the chapter about the importance of money, how much it took to be considered the gentility, the importance of having a carriage and a certain number of servants, etc. It really helped me to have a better understanding of the small details in Austen's books. I would only recommend this one to the serious Austen fan who has read most of her work. The author uses lots of excerpts from all of her books, including the one she was working on when she died. Anyone reading this who has not read most of the books might become bored with all of the references to each book. For those who have read everything Austen, this book will be a delight and will add a greater appreciation for what Austen accomplished in her novels. I know I am eager to read some of the books again now that I have a better understanding of themes Austen used in her writing. My rating: 5 stars out of 5 I received this book from NetGalley for review.
I am a stay at home mom of three kids who loves to read. I have always been a reader, but I have been reading even more recently and have found some amazing books. My favorite genres are historical fiction and classics. I also try to read lots of other types of books, but I always come back to my favorites.