A Jane Austen Education: The Learning Path of Books
Have you ever read a book that changed your life? This is exactly what happened to William Deresiewicz when he read Jane Austen’s books, and he writes all about his experiences in A Jane Austen Education. This is a riveting account of how one man’s life is impacted simply by reading. What makes his book entertaining is that he interweaves his stories with those of Jane Austen to show not only how he relates to them, but also what he learns in the process.
One of my favorite moments comes from Emma and has to do with everyday occurrences. Austen states that “those small trivial everyday things, that is what the fabric of our years really consists of. That is what life is really about.” (pg.13) Deresiewicz here realizes that while he initially found the stories in the book boring, when grouped together they create the framework for our lives. What we do with those small things is called life.
The author does a lot of growing up while reading these books and perhaps the most relatable in this aspect is Pride and Prejudice. Here Austen describes what growing up means, “making mistakes” (pg.52) and learning to “doubt themselves” (pg.68) It’s clear that growing up is not a perfect science and that while there might be bumps on the road, it’s all part of the process. This becomes very clear as both the character of the book and Deresiewicz find their freedom.
At the end of A Jane Austen Education you will possibly reconsider not only what you read, but how you read. One can only hope to learn as much as Deresiewicz did when reading the Jane Austen novels. My wish is that the simple act of picking up a book might yield the same learning path for us all.