Jul 172010

How Do We Love Jane Austen? Let Us Count the Ways…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon Vine

This review may be a little unorthodox, but with an anthology of thirty-three essays, I’m finding it a little challenging to not be too specific or too general.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged is a collection of essays from literary scholars, contemporary authors, literature professors, critics, novelists, playwrights, and academics, to name a few. Some of these writers are men and others are women, some are at the beginning of their career and others are at their apex, some lived during the nineteenth century while others are alive during the twenty-first century. In their individual essays each writer ponders, analyzes, evaluates, explains or enumerates the reasons why they read, reread, and admire the novels Jane Austen. Some do it very formally with a lot of academic jargon while others casually praise, celebrate, or defend their love for Jane Austen. The essays range from three pages to thirteen pages in length and cover all six of Jane Austen’s major novels including several of her minor works as well.

I read this compilation over the span of three months, reading two to three essays a week. I decided to put a post-it on each essay’s first page, so I could leave myself some notes reminding me the themes and topics addressed in each essay. In addition, I found it helpful to give each essay a rating on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. Here is a breakdown for each rating:  5 stars (seven essays),  4 stars (thirteen essays),  3 stars (nine essays), and  2 stars (four essays).
My average rating was: 3.69

Some of my favorite essays were ones that brought new understanding and insight to Jane Austen’s novels. I greatly enjoyed C. S. Lewis’s analysis and comparison of various Austen heroines, and how he illustrated the similarities in Catherine’s, Marianne’s, Elizabeth’s, and Emma’s periods of disillusionment and periods of awakening. In addition, I took pleasure in A. S. Byatt’s and Ignès Sodré’s conversation about Mansfield Park and family relationships. Moreover, I was delighted with Donald Greene’s systematic rebuttal of Jane Austen’s so-called “limitations.”

However, there were some essays that weren’t as enlightening and at times felt a little on the heavy and pedantic side. In addition, some writers seemed to focus a bit too much on themselves and not enough on Jane Austen. I was a little disappointed with one writer’s narrow observation of Edmund and Fanny as odious prigs, and I didn’t care for another writer’s argument that Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland are incompatible and their future happiness improbable!

While some may grumble about some of the essays in here being old and outdated, I found that aspect pleasing and I am delighted to have all these essays conveniently located in one tome. However, I would have enjoyed a little bit more diversity amongst the writers, perhaps including writers from different cultures and countries would have added more variety. (Jane Austen is all over the globe!) Furthermore, some of the essays were a little too similar to each other and felt a bit too redundant. There seemed to be an abundance of essays on Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, but not very much said about Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged is wonderful compilation that can be appreciated by die-hard Janeites and new Austen admirers alike. You don’t have to be an Austen scholar to enjoy this novel! I recommend this anthology for any Jane Austen fan who is interested in delving into some critical or scholarly work.

This is my second completed item for the “Everything Austen Challenge II” hosted by Stephanie’s Written Word.

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  4 Responses to “A Truth Universally Acknowledged – Edited by Susannah Carson”


    Sounds like a fascinating book! I will definitly be adding this to my collection!


    Hi Meredith, we both hit upon some of the same likes and dislikes about this collection. It is wonderful to have all of these in one place even if they are all not my favs. Like you I am miffed over Catherine and Henry’s projected divorce. 😉


    Hi Meredith, we both hit upon some of the same likes and dislikes about this collection. It is wonderful to have all of these in one place even if they are all not my favs. Like you I am miffed over Catherine and Henry’s projected divorce. 😉


    This sounds great! Great review, you covered the good and the bad sides. I’m putting this on my wishlist.

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