What Matters in Jane Austen?
Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved
By John Mullan
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Hardcover, 9781620400418, 352pp.
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
List Price: $30.00*
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Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In "What Matters in Jane Austen?," John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.
In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. "What Matters in Jane Austen? "illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, "What Matters in Jane Austen? "will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.
“Substantial yet conversational, this is scholarship without pedantry… An Austen lover’s greatest wish is for more of her novels. This intimate guide to the world of her books is the next best thing.”—The Atlantic "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 ... His work is essayistic and briskly compendious, but as a whole the book also builds up to a satisfying conclusion—one that acknowledges Austen’s capacity to bestow on her character’s lives all of their own, “as if she were observing ... rather than creating” them ... 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"—Literary Review
“Delightful… Mullan’s humorous guidebook encourages first-time Austen readers to pick up her novels and lovers of Austen to re-read for new details.” —Publishers Weekly
“A box of 20 literary chocolates for Austen fans to savor.”—Kirkus
“Mullan’s close reading will provide serious fans with plenty of new insights for the next time they pick up one of Austen’s books.”—Booklist
“This collection of essays will delight. Mullan’s intent is to reveal Austen’s cleverness and revolutionary approach, and he succeeds, deftly sharing with readers his enthusiasm and knowledge gleaned from Austen scholarship in this enjoyable read. [F]ans will appreciate the clarity and perspective Mullan brings to a beloved author’s works.”—Library Journal