Top critical review
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Happiness in Reading is Entirely a Matter of Chance....
on 29 July 2012
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.