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Jane Austen For Dummies Paperback – July 31, 2006
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"If you begin this book as dummy, you won’t be one when you finish." (Financial Times, Sat 7th July)
From the Back Cover
Explains Austen's methods, motivations, and morals
The fun and easy way® to understand and enjoy Jane Austen
Want to know more about Jane Austen? This friendly guide gives the scoop on her life, works, and lasting impact on our culture. It chronicles the events of her brief life, examines each of her novels, and looks at why her stories of women and marriage, class and money, scandal and hypocrisy, emotion and satire still have meaning for us today.
- Why Austen is so popular
- The impact on manners, courtships, and dating
- Love and life in Austen's world
- Her life and key influences
- Her most memorable characters
Top customer reviews
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The book operates on several levels. It's a great introduction to Jane Austen for the newcomer, something to give to your non-Janeite friends who just don't "get" why you're interested in Austen. It's accessible, meaning you don't have to be an academic or have academic leanings. It's accurate and just comprehensive enough. It's not a bunch of literary essays on the fine points (not that I don't like those); it's a down to earth introduction, providing lots of essential cultural background and general orientation to the period and to Austen's life and writing.
The book also serves as a general to intermediate reference for the devotee. It's not a "deep" reference but it contains enough of everything to be useful as a first "go to" book when looking something up. For the intimate details, you'll go to more specialized books, but you can often start here.
If you were to have one and only one Austen companion book, this would be it. Despite the title and the sometimes restrictive format of the "Dummies" series, the book works well, and it's refreshing to see an eminent scholar like Joan Ray present an overview that remains readable but doesn't compromise.
In carefully chosen, sometimes tongue-in-cheek prose, Ray introduces the reader to Miss Jane Austen, the author. We find out why her carefully crafted novels have been such a continuing success all these many years. We learn the social manners and customs that underlay her romantic comedies. We discover the harsh realities of the politics of courtship that provide the drama in the lives of Jane Austen's distinctive heroines. At the end of the book, Joan Klingel Ray offers her opinions on the sequel novels and various film adaptations of Jane Austen's work. Although dated 2006, Ray was able to forecast the productions aired on PBS Masterpiece Theater in 2008.
Ray uses the "...For Dummies" format to good effect. The student in a hurry can scan through the principal points, while the Jane Austen fan may wish to linger over some of the trivia and the literary criticism. Although the popular novels "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" get their due, so do the more complex "Mansfield Park" and the rather abbreviated "Persuasion", written when Austen was already suffering from the disease that killed her. This reviewer thoroughly enjoyed the tour, although he wishes Ray had been a little less harsh on the visually lush but compressed storyline of the 2005 film version of "Pride and Prejudice."
"Jane Austen For Dummies" is very highly recommended as a study guide for high school and college English Lit students, and for Jane Austen fans looking for the next good read.
For those who are not quite so in to Jane Austen as my mother, let me share with you some of what this book contains. You learn about the do's and don'ts of society in the 1800s. You learn about child rearing and parties and how young ladies behaved in company. After you read this book and then watch one of the Hollywood movies based on a Jane Austen novel you'll shout out loud "She would NEVER do that!". You might even attempt to read some of Austen's novels with a new understanding of her wit and charm. Even if you don't care for Jane Austen novels, if you enjoy the occasional "historical" novel, read through this book. You'll enjoy it immensely and get a chuckle as you see modern authors subtle mistakes.