Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Jane Austen Education

Jane Austen is often regulated to the 'chick lit' corner, with people classifying them as fluffy romances for women who don't want to venture into the 'more important' classics. And at first glance, some of her novels might seem to fit this formula. Men and women falling in love in the idyllic English countryside? How boring, how trivial!

So thought William Dereseiwicz, a young man at work on his doctorate degree when he was forced to pick up Jane Austen's "Emma" And his life was never the same.

Far from being 'chick lit', Dereseiwicz found that Austen defied the conventions of romantic literature, especially the romances of her date, to teach important truths that are surprisingly relevant to today's society. Moving away from his love affair with the Postmodern writers, Dereseiwicz chronicles how each of Austen's novels ushered him along the path to true maturity. Each novel touched a pivot point for him - and the growth was about more than romance - about understanding himself as a person and growing into what it means to be a real adult.

Part memoir, part biography of Jane Austen, part literary analysis, and all love letter to our favorite heroines, this is a book that no Austen fan will want to miss. At less than 300 pages it is not a daunting read (I read it in less than two days) but is profound and you will find yourself looking at Jane Austen an entirely new way (even if you've read all of her books half a dozen times already).

"A Jane Austen Education" demonstrates that Austen's works are far more than chick lit, and have a surprisingly enduring legacy.

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