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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Matters In Jane Austen? by John Mullan

John Mullan sets out to 'catch Jane Austen in the act of greatness' in this book, and he achieves it.  Mullan studies the importance of details about age, weather, the seaside and various other subjects in Jane Austen's novels.  He shows how these affected people in Regency times, and how knowing more about these topics improves our understanding of the novels.

For example,  Mullan writes about how Mr Collins is usually depicted as in his forties in the movies and the TV series.  However, it helps for readers to know that he's really only in his twenties.  His comic pompeousness and snobbishness becomes much clearer for readers.

He also writes about the importance of knowing more about the heroine's ages in the novels. Elizabeth, for example, is an ideal age for a woman, but Anne is regarded as being certainly destined to be an old maid until she goes to the seaside and regains her bloom.

I found the chapter on servants the most interesting part of this book, although it's all engaging.  Mullan explains exactly how important servants are, and how important it is to hide things from them!  For example, Lizzie is pleased that her mother doesn't let the servants know about Lydia's running away with Wickham.

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