A Jane Austen Education for Us All

BlogHer Review

Reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz was actually quite delightful. I was very excited we were also given The Complete Novels of Jane Austen because after reading Mr. Deresiewicz's recollections, I was reminded of my own thoughts reading these works. Jane Austen's tales affected me as well, nearly 20 years ago. I also became eager to revisit my love and memories of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility.

Developing such intimate relations with an author and her characters is a tad offbeat, but I found Mr. Deresiewicz's encounters interesting and enlightening.

In Emma Mr. Deresiewicz recalls, "But if you loved her -- if you 'got' her -- you felt like you'd joined a secret club, with its own words and special signs and degrees of initiation." Step by step we are given insight into his world and Austen's world. We are even given not commonly known tidbits that enhance our journey.

By the time we rally into the Pride and Prejudice section, we are with Mr. Deresiewicz in sharing that point in our lives as well. He was in graduate school, I was a senior in high school, and both in rapture with the theme of "growing up." Reconciling, or "coming to see yourself from the outside, as one very limited person" can be daunting. Austen's giving Elizabeth Bennet freedom liberated her readers as well.

Mr. Deresiewicz's thoughtful weaving through Jane Austen's works can be meaningful for everyone who reads it. I took particular interest because I studied English in undergrad. It was enriching to be given insight into someone's dissertation and what brought them to love a series of novels.

I also found it quite interesting that some readers back then had separated themselves! The Bronte people and the Austenites! Loving them both, it had never occurred to me that they had fan based so charged. Deresiewicz even includes excerpt from a letter Charlotte Bronte wrote. Delighting the mind to some of the things going on in the literary world long before we were even born.

I applaud this work because going back in time is always a good thing. I have now begun an effort to re-read these pieces just to see how I come away with them now as adult and what meaning I can take away this time. If a book can give that to you, that is really rather great.

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