How A Jane Austen Education Schooled Me

BlogHer Review

I barely remember reading Jane Austen books in high school. I know that I did read them -- or at least was suppose to read them -- but my memory is blurry. The teenage me had no interest in reading about young women's lives hundreds of years ago. BORING. Just as I wrote off Jane Austen's works at first try -- so did author William Deresiewicz. His first time reading Emma he writes, " one whole chapter....consisted entirely of aimless talk". That is exactly what I got out of Jane Austen many years ago.

The difference between 15 year old me and the twenty-something year old Deresiewicz is that he gave Austen another try; Not just one of her books -- her whole collection. In A Jane Austen Education, he details six Austen novels and how in those pages he found the answers to life.

I may not care for the adjective heavy prose of Austen, but Deresiewicz puts new meaning into her words. As I read his thoughts on each of her novels, I became more and more interested in what exactly happened in those storylines. What mistakes in judgement did Elizabeth make in Pride and Prejudice? Did Anne and Captain Benwick ever see a spark of romance in Persuasion?

Having read A Jane Austen Education has inspired me to dig deeper into my own literary library and re-read the novels of long ago.

According to Deresiewicz, Austen's characters aren't too different from you and me. Maybe the answers to my daily woes can be found in the prose of Jane Austen and William Deresiewicz.

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