TLC Blog Tour&Review: A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

Posted 5 May, 2011 by Molly(Cover To Cover Cafe) in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

About the Book:
An eloquent memoir of a young man’s life transformed by literature.

In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author’s novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen’s teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man’s discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen’s novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen’s devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen’s eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

Weaving his own story-and Austen’s-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen’s reader, who learns and grows by their sides.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen’s mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen’s world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.

About the Author:
William Deresiewicz was an associate professor of English at Yale University until 2008 and is a widely published literary critic who writes for a popular audience. His reviews and criticism regularly appear in The New Republic, The Nation, The American Scholar, the London Review of Books, and The New York Times. In 2008 he was nominated for a National Magazine Award for reviews and criticism.

My Review:

I don’t normally review memoirs. They just don’t appeal to me, and I have a hard time being “captured” by the memoirs. However, there are rare occasions, such as this one, that I find I become engrossed in the life of the author, and I find myself finished with the book before I ever really got started! Those are the kinds of memoirs I enjoy…the ones that really capture and aren’t too boring, yet aren’t over the top. A Jane Austen Education is one such memoir, and I am pleased to have had the chance to review it! 
There are some folks out there who may think about buying this book because of Austen alone. She is a great story teller of all time, and I truly enjoy her work. But this isn’t strictly about Austen. Yes, it’s about Austen but it’s not ABOUT Austen. Deresiewicz is a man who creates this enjoyable memoir about his life after reading 6 of Austen’s novels. He was a man who laughed at Jane Austen’s work. A man who takes each chapter, breaks them down by specific books of Austen, and tells of how each book changed his life in some form or other.
Through each chapter, Deresiewicz tells of the meaning of each of these “romantic” novels, as they have so often been dubbed. After reading the novels, he was able to see through “romance” to the meaning and life lessons among each one. He took those messages/lessons and filed them away, learning from them and seeing what would make his life different….make his life better. 
This is a four star memoir that I highly recommend you read. If you are an Austen fan, then take a moment or two to read this novel. You will see her stories in a whole new light! High praises to the author of this enjoyable memoir.
Visit the other stops on the tour here
*This book was provided for review by the publisher and TLC Book Tours*

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