Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

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Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical

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On the other hand, her love of and fascination with Jane Austen informs every page, and her conclusions inspire rereading, rethinking and debate. I learned a lot, I saw Austen with fresh eyes, and that’s a lot for me to say after a lifetime of immersion. Her books are stories, often with love in them, that also blatantly criticized the society she lived in.

Jane’s original readers would have seen all the parallels that the modern reader misses, and these would have been even stronger if the book had been published straight after it had been written, rather than years later, after Jane’s death. Sex caused pregnancy, and death was just as much a part of pregnancy as ending up with a baby at the end. If you want to read an AMAZING book on Jane’s works, check out John Mullan’s What Matters in Jane Austen? someone has carefully followed the teaching instructions of writing to persuade GCSE English circa 2010; repetition (tick), alliteration (tick), rule of three (tick). There are far too many outrageous one-liners that argue wild points without any solid evidence or explanation.That in “Northanger Abbey” Austen describes Catherine Morland masturbating (“Let’s not mince words here”) requires an elasticity of imagination beyond the breaking point for the pusillanimous. Though I am ready to accept that Jane was highly influenced by the times in which she wrote, I remain unconvinced that she wrote just to be radical, dressed up in a story. Yes it is true that it's impossible to read a book in the same way as it was read at the time of its publication after two centuries, and the background information the author provides is always interesting, but the claims that Austen chose the names of her heroines in Persuasion as a veiled critique of the Hannoverian succession, or that the apricot tree mentioned by Mrs Norris is a hidden reference to the Church of England's ties to the slave trade, are franky ridiculous.

Fortunately, Kelly does not try to undermine the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth, but rather draws attention to the underlying prejudices of the novel which are far more revolutionary than a modern audience appreciates. There's really no need to panic if it turns out that Austen might have been a conservative and a snob and a product of her social environment and class. For instance, "The word 'sadist' hasn't been coined when Jane was writing, but that's undoubtedly what Mr. I listened to this book on audio, which is usually a medium that I have trouble maintaining attention, but this book failed to disappoint. I accepted this review copy on the basis that it promised new insights into the novels through greater knowledge of the period in which Jane Austen wrote.

She says that Willoughby is drunk when he turns up at what he fears is Marianne’s deathbed in Sense and Sensibility, but in fact his “Yes, I am very drunk” is entirely sarcastic. A very careful reader in Austen’s own day might have picked up on many of the hints Kelly highlights, but it’s pretty astonishing that a twenty-first-century reader could do so. She sets out to show us how Austen’s novels have been “so thoroughly, so almost universally, misunderstood”.



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