Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Matters in Jane Austen?

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan
4/5 stars
Bloomsbury Press, 2013
Originally published in England, 2012
320 pages
Austen Non-fiction

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Austen is my favorite author so whenever I see something related to her, my interest is piqued. While enjoying a very pleasurable rereading of Pride and Prejudice, I noticed many points that I hadn't before. I thought about age and the way the characters related to each other and the way Austen phrased. These are some of the items addressed in Mullen's work here, a true labor of love, stemming from his years studying Austen. He delves deeply into the minutiae, the little details that some may skip over but that make Austen's novels.

Among the questions are "How Much Does Age Matter?", "Do Sisters Sleep Together?", and "What Do the Characters Call Each Other?" Although I had pondered some of these themes, most of them were new to me. Especially interesting was discussions about the role of weather, if servants ever appear, and which card games are for bettors. He draws on all six of the published novels in addition to referencing Sandition. Every possible relevant item is included in his exhaustive chapters. Consequently even I found this a bit overwhelming. I would definitely not recommend this to a casual fan. No, it is most definitely intended for the serious Austen reader. You will also probably want to have read all six novels (possibly multiple times) in order to be familiar with everything he references. And be warned, that this book will probably make you want to read the books again. On tap for my 2013 is Mansfield Park and possibly Emma as well.

This book did feel on the academic side and as the book progressed, I found myself feeling a bit tired. Certain sections are referenced different times for different points and I may have read this too fast. If I read just one chapter every week or on occasion, I probably would have been able to process everything more thoroughly and not find it so dry.

Overall: Recommended for the Austen-ite; others will likely find it all too much.


  1. Oh my gosh. I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE.

  2. I love Jane Austen and the idea of reading her books more critically appeals to me. This book sounds very interesting if a little too detailed. I think if I read it, I would do as you suggest and read small portions at a time so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed.

  3. This sounds interesting! If I ever undertake a Jane Austen re-read, I'll definitely add it on to the list!

  4. I'm glad you found this interesting. I'd love something similar for my favorite authors. To be honest, though, I have yet to read a Jane Austen novel. I really need too, I know!

  5. I'm the same way about Jane Austen stuff. If I see her name on something, I'll probably give it a second look. I really enjoy books about the time period, too, though I'm not generally a non-fiction gal. I don't think I'll be picking this one up, but it would be fun to browse.


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