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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tour de force -- gushingly brilliant, despite the false premise
Happily Ever After is a tour de force of literary criticism, reading back into Jane Austen the problems that beset modern women of the Bridget Jones variety and deducing the true principles for happiness which Austen gives us. Elizabeth Kantor is gushingly brilliant in her enthusiasm for Austen and her enthusiasm for conservative cultural principles, and this is a great...
Published 23 months ago by Martin Turner

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Happiness in Reading is Entirely a Matter of Chance....
Oh dear.

I decided to take this book for review as Austen is by far my favourite novelist and I thought this sounded like an interesting concept - what makes the protagonists' matches so good. And there is always the sticky Charlotte Lucas question to ponder over. This isn't really what I got; I felt that this book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a work of...
Published 24 months ago by Mrs. D. J. Smith


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Happiness in Reading is Entirely a Matter of Chance...., 29 July 2012
By 
Mrs. D. J. Smith "eowyngreenleaf" (Luton, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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Oh dear.

I decided to take this book for review as Austen is by far my favourite novelist and I thought this sounded like an interesting concept - what makes the protagonists' matches so good. And there is always the sticky Charlotte Lucas question to ponder over. This isn't really what I got; I felt that this book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a work of literary criticism/analysis or a self help manual. I'm also not entirely sure who the target audience for this book are supposed to be. I got a very strong impression that it wasn't supposed to be me! References to 'we Americans' can be somewhat alienating to the rest of the world. Although the whole book seems to push Austen as a main selling point, it also seems to be aimed at people who don't really know the novels that well - too much of obvious plot details have to be explained and there is an over use of quotation, beyond what was needed to make the point.

The text of the book is only about 250 pages, but there must be at least another 100 pages of endnotes. This is an area of complete overkill, in my opinion. When a single endnote can go on for a couple of pages, by the time you get back to the main text, you've pretty much lost whatever plot there was. Endnotes; just too many and too long and in many cases just too unnecessary.

I was only reading from a proof copy, but there were textual errors - Maria Crawford, anyone?! Hopefully someone familiar with Austen can pick this up.

At the time of writing I see that only one other amazon.co.uk reviewer has come forth to note that they didn't like it much either, while the amazon.com reviews seem to be positive. Maybe this has something to do with targeting, as the writing style was very informal and slangy and with a number of American cultural references that meant very little to me. Such a narrow focus seems a bad error of judgement as far as the rest of the world is concerned. If you want my recommendation, I wouldn't bother with this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tour de force -- gushingly brilliant, despite the false premise, 19 Aug 2012
By 
Martin Turner "Martin Turner" (Marlcliff, Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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Happily Ever After is a tour de force of literary criticism, reading back into Jane Austen the problems that beset modern women of the Bridget Jones variety and deducing the true principles for happiness which Austen gives us. Elizabeth Kantor is gushingly brilliant in her enthusiasm for Austen and her enthusiasm for conservative cultural principles, and this is a great read even if you are i) not a woman and ii) not taken in.

The clue to this book is in the title, but if you missed it, Kantor hammers it out in the introduction and every subsequent chapter: we should be pursuing happiness, whereas what we generally do pursue are substitutes for happiness, such as stability, wealth, prestige, admiration, and so on. From this simple premise she explores where all but one of Austen's heroines go right, and where the Bridget Jones/Sex and the City modern woman goes wrong. On the way she trounces 'The Rules and other contemporary attempts to trick Mr Right into falling in love, as well as kicking the 'settlers' movement of people who are willing to take Mr Good Enough.

The book works itself on two underlying premises that it doesn't declare: that the reader likes Austen but doesn't know her writings anywhere near as well as Kantor does, and that the reader is willing to believe that all the answers for today's real life love problems were definitively answered in the Regency by a woman who turned down the only proposal of marriage she ever received.

As a British reader, the alarms started ringing in my head as soon as Kantor started talking about the pursuit of happiness. I hastily scoured the back cover and then the internet, which confirmed my suspicions: Kantor is a conservative writer who fundamentally disagrees with a lot of modern life, and also the way literature is treated in most American universities. This, of course, doesn't make her wrong, but it does give a particular resonance to 'the pursuit of happiness' as the ultimate end, since it comes from that famous passage of the American Declaration of Independence.

I don't find anywhere in Austen that the pursuit of happiness is given the priority that Kantor gives it. Certainly we, the reader, want Austen's characters to be happy, and the things which, we are sure, will ultimately make them happy are the things of which the author approves. But, by reading her own cultural presuppositions back into Austen (something which, for all its faults, post-deconstructionist literature studies would have warned her against), Kantor is simply using Austen to illustrate what she is already persuaded is true. It's no surprise, then, that Happily Ever After is a manifesto of American conservative values, with copious illustrations from Jane Austen, but no real critical self-evaluation.

I read this book within two weeks of Why Love Hurts, which is more or less the book's polar opposite. Although turgid and hyper-academic, Eva Illouz's book (which also frequently cites Jane Austen) has the winning virtue of rigorous self-criticism.

I don't necessarily disagree with what Kantor is trying to do (and, probably, neither does Eva Illouz), and this book is really gushingly well written, and a lot of fun to read. However, I'm convinced that Kantor needs to go further back than Austen if she wants to discover timeless truths about love, and when she does, she needs to put away the American Declaration of Independence as a manual of what life is really about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect even for a cynic, 16 Aug 2012
By 
Doha (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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Elizabeth Kantor's book combines the warm voice of self-reflecting self-help unpatronisingly with the brilliance of Jane Austen, and it WORKS, as this kind of book so often does not. It reads like a fun and critical analysis of vignettes from the Austen opus.

This work is so content-rich that it is difficult to distill it for the purpose of this review. I'm flipping through the book, and each time, I get caught up in re-reading, with thumb in the endnotes at the back - the notes! I love thorough notes, and these aren't your merely academic list of references. These are digressions from or expansions on the main text that Kantor is generous enough (and maybe a little self-indulgent BUT I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND) to include for my(!) enjoyment.

I think it's fair to say that ever since I first read Austen in my early teens, I've seen her characters as role models - Jane Bennet in her kindness (she is the real hero of P&P) and Elinor Dashwood in her self-mastery and forbearance (my favourite fictional female), Fanny Price's staunch morality, Emma's sincerity and openness to criticism - they all have some defining character that makes their evolution so real. This is also in a time when character was valued over personality, and I doubly like that this is a theme underlying the whole premise of Kantor's book.

The book never gets too text-heavy or academic when Kantor offers a lot of extras, liberally sprinkled throughout each chapter: there are 'tips just for Janeites', which are short, snappy thoughts reminding you, in case you forgot, what the book is about. I.e. 'Waiting for a guy who's ready to commit is a much better bet than waiting for a guy to be ready to commit'. They're not killer, but they're not bad. Every chapter ends with action points: how to have an Austen attitude, and practical things you can do to improve your relationships. And in classic Austen fashion, it's not just about romantic relationships, but all kinds, and all of it is underlaid by good psychology.

The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After never forgets what it is - reading Austen as a critical analysis of social interaction, and then extracting from it the reasons and ways it works, so that you can put the same principles into your own life and live happily ever after. It's lightly academic, but thoroughly informal, drawing together the 18th century with our 21st - perfect even for a cynic.

This review could be endlessly long - I've been talking about Austen for at least half of my life, so that wouldn't be hard. But go on and read this book, if you're like that, too. I'm not sure what an earlier reviewer, who didn't enjoy it at all, expected - Austen is read to be talked about, and this is a glorious fangirling - erudite, fun, witty and helpful, but don't let that fool you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relationship advice from Jane Austen's novels, 24 Aug 2012
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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This book will be of interest not just to Jane Austen fans but also to women who are finding their love life to be less than happy. The book analyses by means of quotations and examples from Austen's work, where twenty first century people go wrong with their relationships. I found it fascinating reading and learned some useful things about relationships in general and about Jane Austen's novels.

The author reminds us that we are still operating under the influence of ideas which first surfaced at the beginning of the nineteenth century whereas Jane Austen harks back to the eighteenth century in her ideas. Today many people believe the only possible reason for marriage is romantic love even though this will not bring happiness on its own. Examples such as Marianne Dashwood in `Sense and Sensibility' who thinks the only thing that matters is high emotion should make us consider whether we are running our love lives by Marianne's rules to our detriment. Respect and friendship are just as important as romantic love and together they make a solid base for a long lasting relationship.

The book draws useful parallels between Austen's characters and modern ways of behaving. In a sense by putting sexual attraction before everything and falling into bed with men without getting to know them properly we become Lydia Bennet. You only have to read about how Lydia behaved with her constant chatter about officers and flirting with several at once and being the centre of attention to wonder if maybe twenty first century women have got it all wrong. Do we need to take a step backwards and get to know men properly to enable us to decide whether they are worthy of our love and respect? Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the inherent qualities of the men we consider husband material?

There are sixteen chapters with such titles as `Don't be a Tragic Heroine'; `Don't Let Cynicism Spoil Your Happy Ending'; `Do Take Love Seriously' and `Arrange Your Own Marriage in the Most Pleasurable Way Possible'. Each chapter has a useful summary at the end under three headings :- Adopt an Austen Attitude; What Would Jane Do? ; If We Really Want to Bring Back Jane Austen . . . There are notes on each chapter at the end of the book and there is an appendix `'The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After'' - Really?' There is an index and contents list. This is an enjoyable and informative read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Only OK, 3 Aug 2013
By 
Mrs. Annette E. Mann "Annette" (Staffordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
This American author is very knowledgeable about Jane Austen but too often her style grates an d I could have done without her personal stories interspersed throughout.
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4.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a stocking filler book, 3 Dec 2012
By 
josie82 (Fife, Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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At first glance, I expected this to be a fun and frothy book comparing dating in modern time to Jane Austen's - much like typical stocking filler fare. I was surprised and pleased to find this much more than I expected.

At a little over 360 pages and larger than a typical paperback, it feels fairly substantial (in a good way) and very good value for the price.

The premise of the book is that Jane Austen and her contemporaries have much to teach us with regards to love, romance, relationships and men. The author aims to teach the reader what to do in order to get yourself into a better position to have all of the aforementioned. Unfortunately she doesn't tell us where to find the good men!

I enjoyed the book and found it intelligent, refreshing and thought provoking. The writing was quite sharp and thankfully not disparaging to either sex. I think that some people may find the author's writing style a little bit harsh so I would suggest that this book may be like marmite depending on your frame of mind and own personality.

The book was also well researched and would make an interesting read for those interested in the Regency, with or without the love and dating aspect. This book is still fun but it's a lot more in depth than I expected.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Austen made alive......, 25 Aug 2012
By 
J. DOUGLAS "Johnny Douglas" (Nr London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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A delightful, design-friendly and attractive guide to heart-happiness according to Austen's world. References to 'we Americans' can be somewhat alienating to the rest of the world. Although the whole book seems to push Austen as a main selling point, it also seems to be aimed at people who don't really know the novels that well - too much of obvious plot details are explained and there is a potential overuse of quotation, beyond what may have been needed to land the point.

The text of the book is only about 250 pages, but there is almost 100 pages of endnotes, which may irritate others. Kantor presses it from the start and in every chapter: we should be pursuing happiness, whereas what we generally do pursue are substitutes for happiness, such as stability, wealth, prestige, admiration! I don't always assent to Kantors defensive posture towards the reader....but its a great go-to-guide for all-things Austen. Creative, fresh and pacey.....even for a bloke!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!, 23 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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As a Jane Austen fan, I really enjoyed this often tongue-in-cheek look at applying Jane Austen's 'rules' for love, dating and marriage to the modern-day world. Elizabeth Kantor, the author, is clearly an Austen aficionado and "The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After" is filled with tidbits from Austen novels, linking the situations and personalities of Austen characters in order to give advice about present-day romantic situations. This book is a very enjoyable and entertaining read for any Jane Austen fan.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fail, 26 July 2012
By 
Thinker (Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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I really did not like this book, I had to give it minimum stars I could, so disappointed in what could have been a very interesting read.
I love Jane Austen books, not as much as some maybe, but I have the set and am very pleased to have them, read them all, seen lots of TV adaptations. That is the reason I chose this book, looking for more insight into a Jane Austen connection sounded interesting. No, I found it boring, - it is written a little like short essays or speeches, and it seems to be written in such a way that I felt it was a 'discuss' sort of book, not what I was hoping for. Questions are posed and everything seems a statement you agree or disagree.
Quotes a plenty.
Not a fun book, and some of the statements made within it I disagreed strongly.
The last section of the book has many notes which it could be flicked to back and forth to as you go.
This book was not what I expected at all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen, 31 July 2012
By 
C. I. Smith "c i c smith" (Kent,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (Hardcover)
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This is a book that spends time looking at & analyzing the many Jane Austen characters that we have all got to know and love,while it can be very amusing in places it can also be hard work,the constant flipping and looking at notes can be time consuming,there are pages and pages of notes.
I think like most books that tend to spend time at looking into why we behave as we do when in love you may have to take it with a pinch of salt,i think that the adaptations that have been put into film or TV programs have been fantastic and i like many love Austen,i found myself saying the part of Darcy when speaking to Elizabeth of his love for her ,that always makes me smile.
I think if you want to spend time looking into Austen and analyzing the whys and wherefores then this book is for you,i feel that life and love is not always what you hope for which is what this book tells you in places,it is hard work & is not quite my cup of tea but i thought i would take a look as i do like Jane Austen,i have like many all the books and films.
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Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After
Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Kantor (Hardcover - 19 April 2012)
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