Brownstein has written a delectable hybrid of biographical and cultural criticism, struck with brilliant splashes of memoir. On reading, you feel as if you just finished Pride and Prejudice, you Skype a brainy friend who knows Austen inside out -- the conversation is so delicious, you'll whip through Persuasion just so you can talk to her tomorrow! Why Jane Austen? Why the movies, miniseries, museums, sequels, novelizations, prequels, criticisms and zombies? Read this book and you'll know. Then put it on the shelf next to those six novels, even richer now for this lady's attentions.
(Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter
This vital handbook for Janeites is both a store house of diverting facts and a history of literary obsession, gracefully steering the reader through a maelstrom of conflicting views on Jane Austen's life and times. A fascinating account of how Austen has been glorified yet exploited by film and television over the decadesso Mr. Darcy lives forever to woo Elizabeth, whether wearing the face of yesterday's Laurence Olivier or today's Colin Firth.
(Fay Weldon, author of Chalcot Present
Why Jane Austen? is a warmhearted, personal, and humane meditation on Austen and Austenolatry. It is also, in the tradition of Becoming a Heroine, smart, witty, eloquent, and joyfully wide-ranging, a mixture of anecdote, cultural criticism, biography, literary history, and close reading. By bringing serious literary thought to a wider audience, this book is accessible to anyone acquainted with Austen's novels. It performs one of the most important services of humanistic scholarship.
(William Deresiewicz, author of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
Rachel M. Brownstein's smart and often charming book reengages and reinvigorates Lionel Trilling's question, 'why we read Jane Austen'a matter that Austen scholars know is of cultural as well as personal import. Brownstein writes with the assurance and comfort of a senior scholar surveying the terrain. She is opinionated in the best sense, but she also writes from a place of considerable and valuable self-consciousness. Parts of her book serve as memoir: of her life as a teacher, as a scholar asked in public and private social encounters to serve as representative and explainer of Austen the cultural icon, as a reader whose contexts for Austen have changed with changing geography and social meanings. It is one of Brownstein's contentions that, reading Austen and seeking her, we find ourselves.
(Mary Ann O'Farrell, Texas A&M University, author of Telling Complexions: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush
This book will delight devoted readers and students of Jane Austen and may inspire readers who have disliked Austen in the past.
Along the way, the reader, too, may discover in Brownstein's book what the author discovers in Austen: a means of transporting ourselves to a more gracious and better-ordered world.
(Melinda Bargreen Seattle Times
An intriguing discussion of one of history's literary giantesses.
(The Midwest Book Review
...her brilliant critical insights and comprehensive survey of Austen studies - including its excesses - merit a wide readership.
(Elsa Solender JASNA News
...the hours spent reading this book are as enjoyable as conversing with a perceptive and sympathetic friend, and as a rewarding as being guided by a superb teacher.
(JASNA News (second review by Maggie Lane)