Thank you (+ bonus)

I’m super excited to discuss Austen with you!

Enjoy a (bonus) guide on how to read Jane Austen: either download or read below

See you soon!

Frances

Understanding Jane Austen: how to read Jane Austen in 3 easy steps  

I bet you think I’m going to say something like:  

1. Obtain a book  

2. Open the book  

3. Read the book  

Reading Jane Austen can be that easy (especially as the books are out of copyright and freely available on the internet!) but really understanding can be a little more complex  

1. Read out loud

Maybe not in a public place though, unless you’re planning on giving a  public reading of Jane Austen in which case – go ahead

Jane Austen’s long sentences are sometimes easier to follow and  understand when you read them aloud. You’ll notice that her writing lends really well to being read this way

2. Who’s talking?  

Who’s perspective is this written from? Is it the author, a specific character or a mixture of the two?  

Jane Austen is well known for having pioneered a type of writing called free indirect discourse. Which is a fancy way of saying the book is written in third person but can dip in and out of characters perspectives

3. Is it true?  

Are you being misled by the author? Does the character really know what’s going on? Perhaps the author is using the situation to poke fun at a character or society 

Irony is a tool Jane Austen uses. It’s is a bit like sarcasm. You say “yeah, right” when you mean no. So, the opposite meaning is true. (Sarcasm is more nasty and pointed)  

4. Bonus: read the notes / annotations

If you have a printed copy of the novel it’s likely to have footnotes or end notes…or if you’re really lucky notes in the margin from a previous reader. These will explain words or concepts that are foreign to the modern reader.  

Let’s try this with the first line of Pride and Prejudice:  

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

1. Read it out loud

I put emphasis on “must” even though I don’t intend to. Do you do it too? Perhaps it something about the way it’s written that leads us to  do this. Rhythms can give extra meaning.

2. Who’s talking?  

I think this is Jane Austen talking or “the author.” There are no speech marks or indications that we might be inside the head of one of the characters because they haven’t been introduced to us yet.  

3. Is it true?  

Well yes and no. Everyone agrees that a man of good fortune must be looking for a wife (true, it is universally acknowledged) but it doesn’t mean that the man is actually looking for a one. So this is an example of Jane Austen’s use of irony.  

It’s a simple as that!  

Happy reading