A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter Here I am, still on my Jane Austen kick (and in my last few days of silence, I have indeed been re-reading this literary genius). And you can basically blame this book.

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter is written by William Deresiewicz, who (no surprise from the long-winded title) studied English literature as a graduate student and finally overcame his manly, rebellious loathing of Austen.

As a self-proclaimed literary snob, Deresiewicz experiences both pride and prejudice when forced to read Austen in his Ph.D. classes. Hating the world and railing against the man (in this case, his father), he snobbishly sneers that Austen holds no value for a young man in today’s world, especially in comparison to great wordsmiths like Joyce.

Slowly, he warms up to her as he finds that Austen’s lessons are extremely transferable to his everyday life as he struggles to adulthood, through friendships and romances, and of himself and the world around him. Particularly apt are his parallels between society in Austen novels and New York City high-flying young adult society – maybe more  shallow, grasping, and materialistic than Mrs. Bennet or the Elliots.

Deresiewicz drew my attention to specific passages that exemplified Austen’s intricate storytelling that I had glossed over as a casual reader, so my choice to return to her novels at the conclusion of this text has definitely lead me to a richer re-reading. However, Deresiewicz does sometimes struggle with balancing between memoir and analysis so some parts of the book are a struggle.

I did enjoy reading this though and feel like A Jane Austen Education added to my own education about literature and about life.

3 Stars


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