2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Perfect even for a cynic,
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.