on 9 December 2009
I see the previous reviewer gave this book just one star; I'm leaving this review to provide an alternative point of view.
You are not going to enjoy this book if your interest in Jane Austen is just limited to reading her novels, or only extends to reading popular literary biographies such as Claire Tomalin's (which I would recommend, despite its sentimentalism). It will mean nothing to you if your knowledge of Austen is based on TV or film adaptations.
Sutherland is writing for a primarily academic audience and this isn't meant to be `pop-lit-crit', though the Bollywood reference in the title may understandably lead you to think otherwise. You really need to be a literature student or teacher, or have a fairly serious scholarly interest in Austen, to benefit from Sutherland's research or appreciate her arguments.
If you do have more than a passing fascination for Austen's writing, you will find this the most interesting and provocative commentary on her works since Marilyn Butler's `Jane Austen and the War of Ideas'. I thought it was an incredibly stimulating read, it introduced me to debates on composition and Austen's juvenilia that I wasn't previously aware of, and it's absolutely encyclopaedic in scope: even if this book comprised all your secondary reading on Austen, you'd still amass a huge amount of textual and contextual knowledge. The chapter on `The Watsons' - a manuscript work that rarely gets the attention it deserves - is particularly intriguing, as is Sutherland's tracing of the myth of Jane Austen as created by successive generations of her family and latterly by her reading public.
In its hardback edition this book was quite obscenely overpriced, almost on a par with the legendary £95 it costs to buy the Blackwell Companion to Jane Austen; thank goodness OUP have now brought out a reasonably priced paperback edition.
on 23 August 2015
This seminal study of ways in which Austen has been commodified, edited and written about according to the social and intellectual assumptions of historical norms is a tour de force. There are insights and challenges to received views on every page. She is particularly acute in deconstructing the famous Chapman Oxford editions and in raising issues concerning what is, or can ever be, authenticity of texts. My only criticism is that at times her language becomes rather obscure and over-condensed in style. Her later theories on how William Gifford's editing/copywriting of the early editions created the 'typical' Austen punctuation and sentence rhythms, and in relating these to the existing handwritten manuscripts, has a precursor in this book. Thoroughly recommended.
on 22 November 2014
This book is amazing, and an invaluable aid to a better understanding of Jane Austen and her novels. The book is not a lightweight, easy read. It is densely written, and presupposes that the reader already has an extensive knowledge of, and interest in, all things 'Jane Austen'.
Professor Sutherland's research demonstrates how the later generations of Victoian relatives and editors 'managed...the invention and preservation of a comfortable Victorian reputation for a disruptive and witty Regency novelist'. We are free at last to understand Jane Austen in her own context!
I am only half way through reading my copy, but am thoroughly engrossed by the ideas and suggestions that Professor Sutherland puts forward, providing much food for thought and enabling me to hear Jane's voice afresh.
on 12 September 2008
This book was very boring and I could not finish it. I was duped by the good reviews it got, and bought it but the style was so academic, the information about Austen already known and the price so expensive, it seems only fools like me can afford the luxury of that kind of intellectual rubbish.