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4.6 out of 5 stars
60
4.6 out of 5 stars
What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved
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VINE VOICEon 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!
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VINE VOICEon 29 January 2013
I know Austen's novels inside out but Mullan still made me think about points that had never occurred to me. How is it, for example, that everyone always knows how much capital/income/dowry all the other characters have? Would you believe that announcements of engagements often included the amount of the bride's dowry? Who is the only married woman who addresses her husband by his Christian name, and why might that be?

I tried to ration myself to a chapter a day but the subject of the next chapter was always so enticing that I read the whole thing in about three days.
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on 30 August 2013
I really enjoyed the format. All twenty chapters have a question as the title and each chapter explores possible and plausible answers. The questions are very thought -provoking and encourage the reader to want to find out more, especially if he/she is familiar with all Jane Austen's novels. Cross-references are made and detailed information is given in each chapter. It is very clear that the author is an outstanding authority on the life, times and work of Jane Austen. A must-read for Janeites.
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on 8 August 2012
This is an outstanding work of literary criticism which is compulsive reading for any lover of Jane Austen's novels. Each chapter illuminates her work through close analysis of an apparently superficial aspect such as the importance of the weather or the games people play or the right way to make a proposal of marriage. Each leads to a profound appreciation of Austen's themes and style. A must for students!
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on 22 December 2013
This is great fun to dip into. John Mullan explores a variety of issues in Jane Austen's novels, such as why age and income matter. It's an entertaining and educational read and a must for any Jane Austen fan. A super accompaniment to the novels.
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on 29 July 2012
As someone who re-reads the amazing Miss Austen at least once a year, I hoped that this book would be an asset - and it is! Great fun to trace the various threads through the six major and the minor works, and to find oneself nodding in agreement, or turning to one or the other of the novels to check something out. After the great Tony Tanner, this is the best yet.
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on 11 March 2013
I haven't enjoyed a book like this since university. Any qualms my rusty brain cells wouldn't manage it were dispelled by the author's accessible style of writing. A joy to read.
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on 7 August 2012
When I first saw this book in a bookshop in Newcastle I wasn't sure if I want to buy a hardcover and not wait for the paperback but after reading the first chapter I was blown away. So I bought it and wasn't dissapointed. I don't agree with everything (women today feel younger than 200 years before and were worne out earlier) but it has so many things in it to think about and to look from a new point of view that I haven't regret to buy it as a hardcover. I'll read and reread it many times in future.
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on 23 March 2013
This is a sprightly exploration of Austen' s technique that should satisfy both admirers and scholars of her work. A worthy companion to the novels, perfect for dipping in and out of.
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on 26 July 2013
This is an absolutely fascinating book for those who know Jane Austen's books well. It makes one aware of social issues and details of life in the early 19th century that are there in the narratives but 'hidden' as one reads them.
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