What Matters in Jane Austen? - John Mullan

Although I've only read two of her books, I'm an Austen fan. 'Wry social commentry' might be one description, but it's snarky bordering on sarcastic, and really very entertaining.

The Georgian setting in some senses is great - social conventions of the time make the mis-understandings possible and the social conventions that allow so many different kinds of awkwardness. On the other hand, the books were written as contemporary novels for a contemporary audience, nad not knowing the context makes things much harder to follow.

Hence I bought this book. Effectively a collection of essays on Austen covering a variety of subjects, it fills in much of the contemporary landscope. However, it does much more than this - it not just explains the context, it emphasises the subtlety of her writing. The tricks she uses in her writing are many and varied, and there's an awful lot of subtle structure packed in. While I was able to enjoy the books I've read without spotting this stuff, the essays here have really opened my eyes to the detail.

I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of her novels. As for this book? I strongly recommend it.

Posted 2013-11-22.