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Publisher's Summary

Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.
In 20 short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austen’s novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Listeners will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: listeners will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow listeners to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.
©2012 John Mullan (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By SandieRS on 04-15-13

Just okay

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

The subject matter was interesting but the narrator sounded as if he was reading it aloud for the first time during most of the narration, and although I love dear Jane, by the end of it I was trying to just not fall asleep. Only ardent Janeites will be able to get through this one.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Sophiebennett on 03-04-15

What matters is a helpful and very fun book

I bought this book both printed and audible. So interesting, engaging and very educational. Would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Jane Austen.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Lauren Moss on 04-06-18

Austen wrote novels, not cryptic crosswords

Mullan establishes up front that his goal is to explore historical context and the linguistic theory associated with Austen's oeuvre... but he happily dismisses the significance of feminist (and presumably other theoretical) readings of same, so proudly that you just know he was the guy on the Literature 101 course who memorised every theoretical term and definition in the course documents and volunteered boring, by the book responses in every discussion.

At one point he starts to get close to addressing what later readers found in the texts... and side steps that entirely.
Austen wrote novels, not puzzles, and Mullan doesn't seem to care about teasing out reader response at all.

While I found it smug, didactic, and reductive, this research is absolutely impeccable and well organised, and I imagine extremely useful for academic work (though with this audio version I can't get a look at any bibliography).

Sadly Paul Collins sounds like he was generated by Google, extremely disinterested in the text. Something a little disingenuous about being told about Austen by two men... can't think why.

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3 out of 5 stars
By Pamela on 03-22-17

Interesting but...

Any additional comments?

Every chapter, in itself, was interesting explaining the mores of the time; mourning, dress etc. But since there is only a small number of Jane Austin novels the same events and characters got explained again and again from different perspectives. Not a criticism of the author though (nor of Jane Austin!) and well worth a listen. Perhaps it may have been better to dip into a chapter at a time rather than as a continuous read.

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