Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review: Jane Austen

Christian Encounters: Jane Austen. Peter Leithart. 2010. March 2010. Thomas Nelson. 175 pages.

Neither Jane Austen nor her family could leave her characters alone.

Peter Leithart's biography of Jane Austen was, for the most part, a balanced presentation. Readers are introduced to Jane Austen's world. The society and culture in which she lived, her family, her friends. The times in which Austen lived were complex. And this background information can help readers place it all in context. Readers get a complete account of her life and death. And then, of course, there is Austen's fiction.

Leithart addresses all six novels (Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion) as well as examining some of her juvenile pieces. How did critics receive Austen in her lifetime? How did those opinions change in the decades (and centuries) since her death?

The book, for the most part, is a nice balance of analysis and biography. I did not always agree with Leithart's analysis of Austen's novels, however. Sometimes I really disagreed with his analysis. I especially disagreed with his analysis of Persuasion.

I found some chapters of this one to be interesting. Others I found a bit more on the dry side. (Not that they weren't informative.) I was pleased to see so many quotes throughout the book. It's nice to know that a lot of work went into this one. And that in many places, Leithart lets Austen speak for herself.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Unknown said...

I am a great believer in knowing the historical and social context of works of fiction. They help you attain a deeper understanding and get more enjoyment of reading it.

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Debbie Petras said...

I love Jane Austen novels. It always helps to understand the life of the writer and what impacts her. This sounds interesting to me. Thank you for the review.

I was attracted to your blog first because of your title: Operation Actually Read Bible.

Although I am a lover of books, my first and greatest love is the Bible.