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What Matters in Jane Austen?


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From 'Is there Sex Before Marriage in Austen?' to 'Which important Austen characters never speak?' the Guardian Book Club columnist answers 21 apparently trivial questions that reveal deep and hidden truths about Jane Austen's fictional world

About the Author

John Mullan is a professor in the English department at UCL. He writes the regular 'Guardian Book Club' column on fiction in the Guardian and frequently appears on the BBC's Review Show. He was a judge of the 'Best of the Booker Prize' in 2008 and a judge of the Man Booker Prize itself in 2009. He has lectured widely on Jane Austen in the UK and also in the US, and makes regular appearances at the UK literary festivals.


One effect of reading Mullen's compendium is to make you appreciate the sheer density, the tight-woven intricacy, of every scene and every exchange in Austen. His approach illuminates, because no detail is redundant. Every remark, every accident, every material exchange, is a revelation * Guardian, Books of the Year *
Any new book on Jane Austen raises the urgent question, would I get more pleasure from reading this than from re-reading my favourite Jane Austen novel? If you decide to give What Matters in Jane Austen a chance you'll know after a few pages that you've made the right choice * John Carey, Sunday Times *
If you want to know what Jane Austen's characters look like, which of them never speak, how old they are, what they call each other, why it's risky for them to visit the seaside, what games they play, or how much money is enough, this book will tell you, in minute and richly entertaining detail' * Jane Shilling, Daily Mail *
A fine collection of essays ... Like all good literary critics, he has the happy knack of making you read even familiar works with fresh eyes, and the essays in this book are among the best of their kind ***** * Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph *
Every remark, every accident, every material exchange, is a revelation * Guardian *
Absorbing ... Whether the topic is age, sex, death, money, illness, holidays, accidents, the weather or marriage proposals, Austen's reticence has seldom been handled with such delicate precision ... Such is the quality and incisiveness of Mullan's critical engagement with Austen that the only thing to regret about his book is that there isn't more of it ... What Matters in Jane Austen? is a model of clarity, verve and perception * The Literary Review *
If you love Jane Austen you'll love this book too - it's almost as good as finding an unpublished novel ... Fascinating * Lady *

Mullan (English, University College London; How Novels Work) explains aspects of Austen's novels that have lost their meaning over the centuries since she wrote. Although no mysteries are deciphered here, this collection of essays will delight. Each of the book's 20 chapters discusses a different topic, such as how much money one would have needed to live during Austen's time. The sums quoted in Austen's books-meaningless to contemporary readers-demonstrate, for example, that Sense and Sensibility's Marianne is more materialistic than her idealistic words would lead readers to believe. Mullan's intent is to reveal Austen's cleverness and revolutionary approach (she is, he argues, the first author to use the free indirect style of writing for which Flaubert and James are known), and he succeeds, deftly sharing with readers his enthusiasm and knowledge gleaned from Austen scholarship in this enjoyable read. VERDICT Austen scholars may find this well-trod territory, but lay fans will appreciate the clarity and perspective Mullan brings to a beloved author's works.-Megan Hodge, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., Richmond, VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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