Free on Amazon. The link is for Amazon U.S. Check your local site if you can’t get it. Sorry, the book is no longer free.
Disclaimer: I was interviewed for this book, becoming acquainted (dare I say, friendly) with the author in the process. I disclose that for the sake of transparency; it did not affect my opinion of the book. -MCS
When we read Claire Harman’s book Jane’s Fame back in 2009, we were quite disappointed by what we perceived (perhaps somewhat defensively) as the condescending and dismissive way that Ms. Harman reported on the 21st-century Austen fandom, especially as compared to her treatment of Austen fans in earlier eras. She didn’t come right out and call us tea-sipping, cat-stroking, bonnet-wearing wet shirt fanatics, but one didn’t have to do much reading between the lines to get the impression she was barely holding back. At the time we wrote,
It would have been really interesting to have One Of Us, a Janeite who is “not afraid to be seen wallowing” as Ms. Harman put it, write an overview of the State of the Fandom, even a constructively critical one.
Gentle Readers, Jane Austen must have been smiling upon our wish, for it has been granted–and then some! Deborah Yaffe’s book, Among the Janeites, is all we hoped for when we wrote that review and more. Written with wit, intelligence, and tremendous affection, this “Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom” is the most thoroughly enjoyable Austen-related book we’ve read in some time. The subject interests us in any event–we like to say we are a frustrated sociologist, which is probably at least part of why we enjoy Austen’s work–but in the hand of the wrong author, one who is not quite as much in sympathy with the tribe of Austen, it could have been, like Ms. Harman’s book, a real missed opportunity. Fortunately that is not the case.
Review by Kathleen A. Flynn
Part of the appeal of Jane Austen is that people read her work with very different kinds of pleasure, according to their level of understanding and what they seek. Some love the satisfaction of the smooth working-out of the love stories; others enjoy the wit and irony; some savor the mental journey to a world that seems more placid and stable, more refined and stately, than our own. And a few, like William Deresiewicz, a noted literary critic, find a guide to life. The premise of A Jane Austen Education is that reading the novels of Jane Austen taught him to be a better – kinder, wiser – person and was a vital part of his growing up.
Education takes us through the six novels and about seven years of Mr. Deresiewicz’s life, from age 26 to 33, tracing his progress from self-important graduate student, book-smart but incapable of genuine intimacy or independent life, to the moment he finally finds the right woman, having gained the insight that made real love possible.
Each Austen novel has its own chapter; each is presented as a way station on the writer’s journey to maturity. “Emma” looks at learning to see the importance of everyday, seemingly mundane matters. “Pride and Prejudice” focuses on the challenge of learning from one’s mistakes to see reality clearly, unblinded by emotion or self-interest. “Northanger Abbey” is about learning how to learn. “Mansfield Park” examines how to distinguish what is glamorous and appealing from what is morally right. “Persuasion” addresses friendship, and the challenge of finding and keeping true friends as one moves past early adulthood. “Sense and Sensibility” explores real love versus the false romantic version of it that popular culture bombards us with.
Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen Mysteries (there is a new one, hurrah! More on that in Friday Bookblogging) wrote a piece for NPR’s Three Books feature, tying them into the bicentennial of the English Regency, which officially began 200 years ago. We have made notes on our reading list.
Lev Raphael, who also has a new Austen-related book (again, more in Friday Bookblogging), wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on loving Jane Austen. Wait, there are people who don’t love Jane Austen?
Carol Adams wrote a piece for the Washington Post enumerating myths about Jane Austen. We suspect there are probably more than five of them.
We weren’t going to mention this until Friday Bookblogging, but everyone’s sending the link. Novelist Joanna Trollope will be the first of (presumably) six authors “of global literary significance” who will each write modern-set adaptations of Austen’s novels, because that’s never been done before. Trollope will take on Sense and Sensibility. Has anyone asked V.S. Naipaul to contribute?
We can hardly find words to tell our Gentle Readers how much this little book made us squee. Yes, the Editrix, enthusiast of digital books and eschewer of all things Dead Tree, was squeeful over this pretty (and, yes, posh) little book.
First of all, it’s pretty! We just sat and admired it for a moment, thinking that the cover pattern looked rather William Morris-ish (a selling point in our opinion; we are a big fan of Arts & Crafts), and then turned it over to discover that the (removable) wrapped label stated it is indeed Morris’ Art Rose print. While not period-correct for Jane Austen, it is elegant and fitting. The book, with its curved corners and elastic wrap closure, looks rather like an especially attractive Moleskine journal.
And then inside–it’s a puzzle book! We love puzzle books, so to have a whole book of puzzles about Jane Austen is delightful! But it turned out that all the puzzles are not Jane Austen-related (and apparently we’re not too swift on the uptake, because it took us two or three puzzles to figure that out), but the quizzes that are Austen-related are not dumbed-down by any means. They include a series of questions about Jane Austen herself, places in the novels, and quizzes for each book. AND THEY ARE NOT EASY. LIKE WE SAID.
Non-Austen puzzles include crosswords, word search, Wordwheel, Codewords (our favorite), Arroword (which made us slightly nuts), Kriss Kross, Crossout, and other brain teasers and puzzles.
Pocket Posh Jane Austen would make a great gift for yourself or your favorite Janeite (and we spotted some other Pocket Posh titles in Barnes & Noble last week–Shakespeare and the King James Bible!). It’s summer, and vacation time–keep this little book and a mechanical pencil in your bag or pocket for airplane rides, car rides, the beach, the pool, chillin’ on the patio, and enjoy some laid-back vacation time while keeping your mind in excellent shape.
We received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.
One of the throwdown topics amongst Janeites–along with which film adaptation of a particular novel is best–is which biography of Jane Austen is best. For casual fans who just want to read one biography, it’s hard for us to recommend just one. Like adaptations of Emma, each has its drawbacks and merits, and one sometimes thinks combining several might make one very good biography. Our go-to if-you-can-read-just-one biography is Elizabeth Jenkins’ much-reprinted 1939 production, but since it’s no longer in print, we think Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef wouldn’t be a bad choice; not only for younger readers, for whom it is specifically intended, but for anyone looking for a good introductory Austen biography.
As it is, as we said above, intended for younger readers, the book is written in clear, jargon-free language, but it doesn’t talk down to the Young Persons, nor is it so simplistic as to be insulting for adults. Speculation is at a minimum, and some more touchy subjects (such as the parentage of Eliza Hancock) are avoided entirely. In another nod to younger readers, plot summaries for each novel are supplied, and placed in context on the time in Jane’s life when they were written. The author has a few hobbyhorses, and rides them a little further than perhaps strictly necessary, but they don’t detract substantially from the whole.
Students age 12 and up, especially those who have read one or more of the novels and are becoming interested in Jane Austen, would find this book great summer reading.
Disclaimer: We downloaded this book as a free, limited-time ebook from NetGalley.
Welcome (after too long an absence) to Friday Bookblogging, in which we discuss Jane Austen’s books and books related to Jane Austen’s life and work.
The Scholarly Kitchen, the blog for the Society of Scholarly Publishing, has a blog post about reading Jane Austen’s novels (and other free public domain books) on Google Books.
Rather than pay for the Penguin or any other edited version of Austen, I decided to be a cheapskate and searched for free Google versions. And that’s when things began to go wrong. The Google editions were packed with errors. If I were not studying Google Ebooks for professional reasons, if I were not already familiar with the works of Austen, would I have gone on? Would I have thought that Austen does not know how to place quotation marks, that she made grammatical mistakes that would embarrass even a high school freshman, or that her dialogue sometimes breaks off without explanation? I began to wonder what service or disservice Google had performed, rendering one of the world’s most popular writers in a form as bizarre as the Zemblan translation of Shakespeare in Nabokov’s “Pale Fire.”
We’ve blogged about the problems with Google Books in the past–the OCR software seems to have problems with antique fonts.
At the fabulous high-tech AustenBlog World Headquarters, Opening Day is a national holiday (despite some weather this year that is, shall we say, not optimal). NPR’s Fresh Air has a piece about a new book on the history of baseball (which we will be purchasing very soon, though we don’t have time to read it) in which Catherine Morland’s love for “base ball”–and her opinion on history–are invoked in the very first paragraphs.
Reflecting on the appeal of history in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, heroine Catherine Morland comments, “I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.” Indeed. And in no field of American endeavor is invention more rampant than in baseball, whose whole history is a lie from beginning to end, from its creation myth to its rosy models of commerce, community, and fair play. The game’s epic feats and revered figures, its pieties about racial harmony and bleacher democracy, its artful blurring of sport and business — all of it is bunk, tossed up with a wink and a nudge. Yet we love both the game and the flimflam because they are both so . . . American. Baseball has been blessed in equal measure by Lincoln and by Barnum.
We really need to make time to read this one! Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for the link. And check back on Sunday for a little special somethin’-somethin’ to celebrate the beginning of baseball season here on AustenBlog!
And finally, check out this gorgeous hand-embroidered cover for a new Penguin edition of Emma (and a couple of other books, too). We know a certain correspondent at the AustenBlog West Coast Bureau who will no doubt find this of interest. (Perhaps she can whip up something for another book of which we are both very fond?) Thanks to Alert Janeite Katharine for the link.