Back to School With A Jane Austen Education

BlogHer Review

Before getting too far, you should know I have never actually read anything by Jane Austen. When the opportunity to read A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz came up I jumped at it. My brain told me this would be an interesting way to get another opinion on her writing before actually committing to a whole book.

Prior to this, my knowledge of her stories came from the movies that seemed to crop up all at once years ago. And who wouldn’t sit through Pride and Prejudice to watch Collin Firth? With William Deresiewicz's book I hoped to gain a little more insight.

And while that did happen, I also found myself wondering when I had signed up for one of his classes.

From the first chapter, the author gives you enough about the plot of the books he uses for examples of the changes in his own personal life. There are no real spoilers, which actually had me wanting to sit and read the books to find out what ends up happening in those stories. The problem is that the author gives a detailed history of Jane Austen’s family and then goes on to break down each of the books to explain what she was trying to accomplish.

I was expecting more of the author’s own personal story, but instead found myself feeling as if I was attending a lecture on Jane Austen instead. After the third chapter, it all seems to feel as if it’s been said before, and in some ways it has. He begins to bring back characters in other books he’s discussed already, and in some ways confuses matters even further.

The parts that weren’t lecture, that were really his story, were the most interesting. I wish he had told us more about himself, made this more of a biography with bits of Jane Austen woven in, than a history of Jane Austen with only bits of his own story interspersed throughout.

As a stand-alone book, I really don’t think I would recommend sitting and reading this at your leisure. If you are an English major, Austen lover, or even considering taking a class on the works of Jane Austen, this may make a good addition to the books themselves. It does give an interesting look at the workings behind some of the characters and what the author learned from it all, but don’t expect more than a brief glimpse into William Deresiewicz and a dissection of Jane Austen.

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