William Deresiewicz: A Memoir for the Jane Austen Fan
By amiedanny on June 02, 2011
When I started reading A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz my first instinct was that the author was only jumping on what is certainly an All-Things-Austen bandwagon that we have seen as of late... not unlike the All-Things-Vampire phase from the past few years. I felt that he was simply attaching his name to a well-known and well-loved author because he knew her name itself would draw readers in and his book would sell.
As I read his story, I realized that Austen really was a major part of the author's life for many years prior to his writing this book. He took several classes in college and grad-school relating to the writer and the time period and really did come to know her personally, totally "got" her style, and completely understood her intents and talents. He even largely based his grad-school dissertation on her writings. So this was certainly no "bandwagon-jump" for Deresiewicz. This has been a 15-ish year process for him.
Having said that, I do kind of feel that he purposefully made certain parts of his life coincide nicely and conveniently for the intent of this book. One never knows how accurate these types of autobiographical accounts are. It could be real, it could be fiction. It could just be really good writing. What he did is take 6 Jane Austen books and correlate their meaning, intent, heroine, and moral to different stages of his own past. He related to each story in a specific way, learning morals as Austen's heroines did, growing as a person with the passing of each book.
It was entertaining enough, a short read, and not unenjoyable, but it wasn't my favorite kind of book. My favorite parts were when he delved into Jane's stories themselves, reminding me of their characters, plots, and resolutions. One of the books reviewed, Persuasion, I have not yet read, and so I found that section particularly interesting.
If you are an Austen fan, you will probably enjoy this book -- that is if you like memoir-type books. Deresiewicz has definitely done his homework, has a wonderfully in depth view of Austen and her personal life as well as her fictional characters in print.
Oh, and it made me want to pick up Persuasion ASAP.
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