Men Like Jane Austen too! Who Would Have Guessed?

BlogHer Review
I have to admit, I was skeptical about A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz, he is a man after all, and I’ve tried more than once to convince men that Jane is worth reading… generally without any luck. But, one never knows about these things, once in a while a man will surprise you, usually with something like a pewter bubble wand, but whatever, it’s the thought that counts, right?

I’m no literary scholar but I have read and watched and read and watched me some Mr. Darcy. I’ve cringed over Emma and suffered with Marianne Dashwood. Dang that Willoughby! I like to think I know a little something about Jane Austen. I’m one of those people who nearly self-diagnosed themselves onto the mental ward when I took my first psychology class, so I have no problem seeing some of myself in just about all of Jane’s characters. I was anxious to read a male point of view.

In the first chapter Deresiewicz gives his thoughts on Emma. Poor Emma, she thinks she knows so much about what will make her friends and family happy with little regard for what they want for themselves. This friends, sadly, is a quality Emma and I share. Like Emma I tend to think that I know what’s best for everyone around me. How annoying. I’m forever wondering (often out loud) how so and so could be happy with this or that. As I was reading, a light bulb flashed above my head (not for the first time), reminding me that MY version of happy is not necessarily the right version for everyone. Sheesh. I wasn’t even 50 pages in and I had re-discovered I was a controlling egomaniac.

My favorite part was near the end of the book when he’s discussing what he learned from Sense and Sensibility, he says “ is not something that happens to you, suddenly or otherwise; it’s something you have to prepare yourself for.” Then on the next page he goes on to say that what Jane is telling us in this book is that knowing yourself is not enough, you must also know the other person, their character, and how this is a thing that takes time.

Could there be anything more true? Or harder to learn?

I liked this book. Not because he said anything necessarily new, but because it reminded me of some of the things I love about Jane Austen’s novels. I liked how the author found a different theme in each novel, I’m not sure I agree with all of his interpretations, but that’s what’s great about interpretations, right? We can all have our own, even if Emma and I don’t always see it that way at first. It never hurts to get another perspective.

There were a few times I felt like he was stretching, trying to fill more pages when less would have been plenty, but all in all, I’d say if you’re an Austen fan you’d probably enjoy it, If you’re not a fan, or you’ve (gasp!) never read any Jane Austen I recommend you get your own copy of A Jane Austen Education started with this book, then dive right into Pride and Prejudice.

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