What Matters in Jane Austen?

Please Welcome Karen from Karen’s Books and Chocolate! Be sure to read all the way through for a special treat following this excellent guest post!
Welcome to Austen in August! I’m so happy to be participating and thanks to Adam for allowing me write a guest post. My regular readers know that I’m a dedicated fan of Jane Austen’s works and most things relating to the Regency time period, so this is right up my alley.
As most of you have probably noticed, Jane Austen has created an amazing following — she wrote only six novels, yet they’ve been adapted, discussed, and dissected more than the works of any other novelist than I can imagine. For the devoted fan such as myself, you can find scores of books analyzing her work. (I personally own at least a dozen.) For Austen in August, I’m reviewing What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan.
In this book, Mullan has written twenty essays that dig deeper into the background of Jane Austen and her works. He explains many of the things that modern readers might miss. For example, facts including which of Austen’s characters addresses her husband by his first name (Mary Musgrove from Persuasion); which key characters never actually speak dialogue; and what a trip to the seaside signals. Some of these fun facts may seem like trivia, but many of them would have been significant to Austen’s contemporary readers. 
The great thing about this book is that there’s something in there for all Janeites — whether you are a casual fan or a serious scholar of the works of Jane Austen. You can read it for the fascinating trivia, or grasp the deeper significance and scholarly aspects of the work. Each of the essays are fairly short, so you can read a few at a time, in manageable chunks. However, it does include plot spoilers for all the books (plus some of the minor works), so I’d recommend reading it after you’ve read all the books. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend reading it to anyone who wants to get more out of the Jane Austen experience.
And now for the giveaway! I’m giving away a paperback copy of What Matters in Jane Austen to any commenter, world-wide! Just leave a comment below telling me which is your favorite novel by Jane Austen and why. (you can have more than one, like me) In one week, I’ll pick a winner from my favorite comment. Don’t worry, the winner doesn’t have to like my favorite book best (but they do have to be a registered participant in this year’s Austen in August event!)
Here are the giveaway rules: 
  • Participants must post a comment telling me about their favorite Jane Austen book (or books) in the comments below, and include a good email address. 
  • Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. (US CST) on August 8 to be eligible;
  • The winner will be announced on August 9 and must contact me with a good mailing address by August 12, or I’ll choose another winner;
  • The winner must live in a country to which The Book Depository will ship. If you’re not sure, visit BookDepository.com and click “Free Delivery Worldwide” to see if your home country is listed. 
 So that’s it! Good luck and happy reading, Janeites!
Thanks Karen & Good Luck to All Entrants! 

26 Comments on “What Matters in Jane Austen?

  1. This book sounds really intriguing! I studied so much Austen in college that I feel like I’m always looking for a new way to analyze her works, and it’s amazing how many people are still thinking critically about them. I feel like there’s a never-ending supply of scholarship!

    It’s difficult to choose just one of her books, but if I’m forced, it would have to be Emma! I feel like Austen really hit her stride with it; everything is so perfectly laid out for the reader that it’s a joy to go back to.


  2. I just heard about this book recently for the first time and decided that I would have to read it. So fingers crossed for me! My favorite Austen is Persuasion. I can’t even say exactly why, but I think it’s because no matter how often I re-read it, I find something new to think about. I like that the heroine is an introvert like me, and I love how my reading experience is always a little bit different depending on what mood I am in when I start reading. And no matter how often I re-read Persuasion, I NEVER skip a page (which I can’t say about P&P or S&S).


  3. What a great addition to the Austen book shelf. Thanks for the intro !
    My fav JA novel? Persuasion. Why? a story of 2nd chances. love prevailing. love overcoming human interference. characters I care about. authenticity…
    THanks for the fab giveaway offer – faithhopecherrytea at [gmail.] com


  4. This looks like a fascinating book! It’s hard to choose a favorite Austen novel, but I think mine would be Sense & Sensibility. I love the contrast between the two sisters, and the different roads they traveled to find happiness.

    kymtmd at gmail.com


  5. My favorite Austen novel is Persuasion. I completely agree about the context of the period adding so much to the enjoyment of the work. I’ve read (and reread) Austen’s work and have learned that the more I understand about the author and the Regency period the more I love each book!


  6. I’ve heard great things about this book! My favorite Austen novel is Pride and Prejudice. I love the wit, humor, characters and plot line. I find it to be the funniest of all of Austen’s novels and I have a big soft spot for humor. 🙂 I love all of her novels of course but Pride and Prejudice is just my favorite. 🙂


  7. Oh I’ve been wanting to read this book! What perfect timing for a giveaway!

    My favorite Austen is Pride & Prejudice. Stereotypical, I know. I used to re-read it in high school secretly when I was supposed to be doing other homework in my room. I’d take long “bathroom breaks” and read there, and then hide it under my bed…until one day our dog found it and chewed the corner. Oops. Sorry, Mom!

    But I love it because I love Lizzy and sometimes wish I could be more like her. I also love the secondary cast and how hilarious and wonderful they all are: Mr. Bennet’s dark humor as a coping mechanism; Mr. Collins’ officious self-importance; Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner as the favorite uncle and aunt who understand and do everything they can to help their nieces… I could go on all day!

    And like commenter TJ, when I re-read it, I also find new things that I missed or forgot before, or some new detail of description (Charlotte Collins (nee Lucas) is pregnant by the end of the story?! Whaaat?).


  8. This sounds like a really interesting book!

    My favorite Austen novel is probably Sense & Sensibility. I just love all of the characters and find their relationships to one another really satisfying, for whatever reason.


  9. It’s difficult to chose only one as favorite among all Jane Austen’s works. Generally my favorite is Pride and prejudice most because you can adapt the story in the modern world but I prefer the luminosity and gaiety of Emma. Persuasion is my favorite love story, can you find a better letter than that of Captain Wentworth? I can’t choose!


  10. I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile–you caught me with the bit about discovering what a trip to the seaside signified!

    I love all the books but my current favorites are Emma and Persuasion, both of which are due for a reread. I also am a big fan of Lady Susan, and hope the coming adaptation will be good.

    Cheers from janetgs05-at-gmail-dot-com


  11. I do love PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, not only for the memorable characters, but the wonderful storyline as well.



  12. Ooo, this looks like a great book for me. I’m a wannabe scholar but in reality, not so much. This would be a great “study tool” for me.:)

    My favorite Austen is Northanger Abbey, for a couple of reasons.

    1. It was the first one I read and I think it’s like the first year of summer camp or something like that. No other years of summer camp quite measure up to the first.

    2. I can relate to Catherine. I’m sort of like her, plain and not so worldly. And the way that Henry was preparing that little cottage for them on the down-low just made it for me.



  13. My favorite Jane Austen book is: “Northanger Abbey” because it is far superior to the other Austen novels in my opinion. The characters are not as shallow as the othe rcharacters in the other books.



  14. this book sounds so interesting. i would love to read it. My very favorite Austen is Sense and Sensibility. I love to imagine their cottage on the seaside as I live on the seaside myself. Thank you for this giveaway and allowing me to have a chance at winning this book.


  15. My favourite has to be Northanger Abbey. I love Catherine’s conversations about novels “….but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?” It led me on to find the titles mentioned and read more about the gothic novels – great fun.


  16. Fave is P&P. Second is Northanger Abbey, and I’m doing a re-read of it this month for #AusteninAugustRBR! I’d love a copy of your book! suzanlauder at gmail dot com


  17. Thank you for this post and the giveaway:) That sounds like a very interesting and lovely book! My favourite novel of hers so far is Pride and Prejudice (who can get over Mr. Darcy’s charms?) but I’m also really enjoying Sense and Sensibility which I’m currently reading.
    My e-mail address is aprintziou at yahoo dot com


  18. And the winner of the giveaway is . . . . AUSTIN!!! I love your comment about taking bathroom breaks to sneak off and read P&P!! This cracked me up because I’ve done the same thing! And I also love the secondary characters, and how you get so much out of each reading.

    To collect your prize, contact me at karenlibrarian13 [at] yahoo [dot] com with a good address and I can mail you your prize!! Congratulations!


  19. This book sounds amazing! I’ll have to keep it in mind for when I’m better-versed in Austen’s works. 🙂


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: