A Jane Austen Education: Learning Something Today
If you are an avid reader, you have a list of favorite books. I certainly do. If you think about your list, you know that there’s a reason that you love each book. There’s a character that you identify with. It made you laugh, or it made you cry. They’re all books that you can read again and again, finding things you didn’t see the last time you read it. Most importantly, those books taught you lessons -- lessons you’ve brought with you throughout your life.
Jane Austen’s books were just that for William Deresiewicz. In his book, A Jane Austen Education, William describes his ultimate book list, and the lessons that he gleaned from them. He begins his story during his college years, when he was a egotistical student. It is then when he reads Emma, a book that changes his world. We follow his story through five more books: Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility. Each book catches him at a certain point in his life, from graduate school to writing his dissertation. The real beauty is the fact that he sees so many parallels in Jane Austen’s books with his own life -- and learns so much from what Austen has to say.
Having never read any of Jane Austen’s books, I was excited to read A Jane Austen Education. (I have a friend who has always tried to persuade me to read them, but the language of the author has always stopped me.) This said, I appreciate the fact that William gives a description of each of Austen’s books in his own book. However, I did find the descriptions to be a bit too much to chew on. I found myself wondering if the author could have given us the same description, just using a few less words.
I did enjoy, however, the author’s personal story. I found myself pulling for him, and hoping that everything would work out in the end. The sections of the book where he really talked about himself, and the life lessons he was gleaning from Jane Austen’s books, really made reading the book more enjoyable for me. It was the human touch that I crave in the books I read, a touch that ends up much more romantic than I ever expected. That was a pleasant surprise.
All in all, this isn’t really my type of book. I’m glad I read it, though, because it made me think in ways I don’t ordinarily think. Because of this book, I’m going to try reading Jane Austen’s novels, thanks to The Complete Novels of Jane Austen that came in the mail with William Deresiewicz’s book. (Thanks, Penguin!) I think that’s the biggest lesson the author wanted us to take from his book -- that reading can open your mind in ways that you don’t always expect.
So -- what lesson can you learn today? Open a book, and find out!