A Jane Austen Education Had Potential

BlogHer Review

A Jane Austen Education is written from the viewpoint of a college student as he struggles to find meaning in six different Jane Austen novels. Sadly, this book left me struggling in many, many ways. I have never had any desire to read Jane Austen, and I do not feel more inclined to read any of them now; in fact, if anything, I would go out of my way to avoid it.

William Deresiewicz has potential, I will say that. There are several places in the book where his words touched me. For example, in the first chapter, writing about Jane Austen's novel Emma, he wrote,"Above all, I started paying attention to what the people around me might be feeling and experiencing in relation to me-how the things I said and did affected them. Surprise, surprise, a lot of those things really pissed them off..." I found that both hilarious and brutally truthful in terms of my own life, having had the same experience many times myself. However, I felt like I had to wade through a lot of pedantic mutterings from someone who felt like he needed to quote long passages from each book in order to get his point across. Instead, all he needed to do, quite simply, was write.

The thing about the book that bothered me the most was feeling like I was reading someone's thesis. I liked it a lot when the author wrote about his own life in relation to the books, without quoting the passages and analyzing them. I found myself yawning through some of them, my attention wandering; that doesn't make for an enjoyable experience for me. However, I would be interested in seeing where the author's voice might take him next time, as long as he isn't tackling more of "the classics."


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