What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Problems Solved

John Mullan, Author
John Mullan. Bloomsbury, $30 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62040-041-8
Paperback - 342 pages - 978-1-62040-042-5
Hardcover - 342 pages - 978-1-4088-2011-7
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4088-2873-1
Open Ebook - 978-1-62040-044-9
Paperback - 342 pages - 978-1-4088-3169-4
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Virginia Woolf once remarked that of all great writers Jane Austen was “the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.” If only she’d had Mullan’s delightful, though repetitive, book at hand, perhaps Woolf would have discovered the reasons that Austen remains among the greatest, yet most enigmatic, of English authors. Austen expert Mullan (How Novels Work), an English professor at University College London, cleverly captures the novelist’s brilliance by answering a set of 20 questions—ranging from unpromising ones such as “How much does age matter?” and “Why is the weather important?” to more seductive ones such as “Do sisters sleep together?” and “Is there any sex in Jane Austen?”—that uncover the details that give Austen’s novels their depth and lasting appeal. Through his answers, Mullan demonstrates that Austen “introduced free indirect style to English fiction, filtering her plots through the consciousness of her characters,” and “perfected fictional idiolect, fashioning habits of speaking for even minor characters that rendered them utterly singular. In one amusing chapter, he provides many examples of the subtle ways that Austen requires the reader to think about sex. Mullan’s humorous guidebook encourages first-time Austen readers to pick up her novels and lovers of Austen to re-read for new details. Agent: Derek Johns, AP Watt. (Jan.)
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