Top positive review
Everything Matters in Jane Austen
on 15 October 2017
This book is subtitled "Twenty Crucial Puzzle Solved". I'm not sure I quite agree with that - it's more a case of throwing some light on areas of the novels that may puzzle a modern reader but would have been plain to a contemporary audience.
For example, there is a chapter on the games played in the novels. No one (that I know!) plays at Speculation any more, but we can grasp both the fundamentals of the game ("I am never to see my cards and Mr Crawford does all the rest" as Lady Bertram puts it!) and read into it some further illumination of the participating characters. And of course understand why Sir Thomas thought that it might not amuse him to have wife wife as a partner in Whist!
There are sections on characters who have no reported speech (it had not occurred before that we never hear Captain Benwick speak, but it is quite true!), clears away the myth that there are no scenes where women are not present and wraps up with an important consideration of Jane Austen's place in the development of the novel. I think that as she is so very readable, and perhaps also because she is a woman writer, people in general are too apt to dismiss her importance, but her innovations in style are immeasurable. I don't think it is going too far to say that without Austen the novel would not have developed in the way it has. If you read Henry James, Flaubert, Kafka and a long et cetera, you best give your thanks to Jane Austen!