What Matters in Jane Austen?

Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved

Mullan, John

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
What Matters in Jane Austen?
A literary scholar poses twenty questions that reveal deep truths about the iconic writer and her lasting influence, demonstrating how Austen's genius can be better appreciated with an understanding of her books' character dynamics, unspoken sexuality, and period conventions.

Publisher: New York, NY : Bloomsbury Press, 2013.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 1620400413
Characteristics: 342 p. ;,22 cm.


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Jun 06, 2014
  • clcohen51 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

If you're a Janeite, you'll find this interesting. And I think I'd like to have a copy handy for the next time I reread one of her novels.

Mar 22, 2014
  • CCR_NYC rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Great book for Austen lovers, though I'm not sure that it "solves crucial puzzles." The author provides loads of historical context (e.g. what it means to wear mourning clothes); explains social mores in detail and when she was poking fun at established convention; and points out how Austen advanced novel-writing. Very enjoyable and sure to enhance my next re-reading of any of her books.

Jun 24, 2013
  • Harriet_the_Spy rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Makes thinking seriously about literature very accessible. You don't have to read it right through but can go straight to the chapters that discuss issues of interest--but don't miss the last chapter where Mullan lays out in detail how truly miraculous Austen's innovations were, and how much we are indebted to her for the shape of the contemporary English novel. Made me load up all of Austen on my e-reader for my next vacation!

Jun 04, 2013
  • akarenina rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

I completed 2/3 of this book and found it rather tedious. One really needs to know all the Austen characters, major and very minor, in order to appreciate the author's critical maneuvering from one novel to another. I much prefer to read the Norton editions of each text followed by the corresponding criticism.

May 30, 2013
  • ksoles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I initially borrowed this book from the library for my partner, the Austen aficionado of the family, but she enjoyed it so much that I thought I'd flip through it myself. Though I admit to not reading every word of John Mullan's detailed, academic work, I found much of his discussion approachable and fascinating.

"What Matters In Jane Austen?" answers both broad and specific questions: do Austen's characters have sex? How do her voiceless characters affect her plots? What does the way in which characters address each other (Christian names vs. Mr./Mrs.) say about their relationship?

Death, jealousy, snobbery, hatred and, of course, pride and prejudice, all feature prominently in Austen's novels. She neither glosses over the unpleasant aspects of life in early nineteenth century England nor those of human nature. Mullan brings this fact to light in a way that will engross both Austen fans and those who have only dabbled in her oeuvre.

Dec 29, 2012
  • kazareads rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A fascinating read for Austen lovers.
John Mullan's insights from years of teaching her are illuminating; articulating the brilliancy of her insight and technique, which I have appreciated only intuitively until now.
I highly recommend it to add pleasure to rereading Austen.


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