How One Book Changed My Mind About Reading Jane Austen

BlogHer Review

I have seen every version of every movie based on a Jane Austen book at least a dozen times each. I admit it, I love Jane Austen. But I am sad to admit that I have never read a single Jane Austen book in its entirety. Several times I have tried to read them but I just could not wade through the language and formal dialogue of the time. Despite my having never read them I have come to feel like I know the books and characters through the movies.

I honestly did not know what to expect when I began reading William Deresiewicz's book. Just as the author thought that reading Jane Austen would have no great impact on him, I thought that a man would not have much to teach me about the world of Jane Austen. And like the author, I soon was proven wrong in my assumptions. Personal accounts and memoirs are not the typical books that I enjoy reading. Actually, I have never even read an autobiography. I love fiction and I love getting lost in imaginary worlds, not getting caught up in someone’s personal account of their life. As I first started reading A Jane Austen Education I was wondering how I would ever be able to finish. By the end of the book I found myself wishing that it was longer, wishing that I could read more about the author’s life as he shared how reading Jane Austen changed him for the better. I found myself celebrating his personal growth and romantic achievements along with him. If that was the reaction he was hoping to get when writing this book then the author succeeded as least with this reader.

The author opens the book by writing how reading Jane Austen would change his life forever. And similarly I can say that reading this book changed mine, too. Never once have I stopped to think what Jane Austen was writing about. My romantic heart only cared about the love stories. I only knew that I longed to be an Elizabeth to a Mr. Darcy, that I wished for lifelong love and devotion like Emma and Mr. Knightly, and maybe even an Elinor to a sensible Edward. Never once had I thought about the lessons of life, of community, and of friendship behind Austen’s stories until I read the way that they impacted the author’s life. Reading his account of how he drew correlations between Austen’s characters and storylines and applied these lessons to his own life made me long to start reading the novels so that I may experience such personal realizations, too.

What was most satisfying to me was reading of the author's own personal growth through his reading and understanding of Austen's novels. Like the main characters in Austen's works, he was not without fault. But by reading her novels and understanding the meaning and life lessons embedded in each romantic story he was able to use these lessons to improve his own life. Like our favorite Austen characters he found his own happy ending in the end, which made my romantic Austen-like heart very glad. This book should be on the “to-read” list of every Austen fan.

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