First things first: I love Jane Austen's novels. They are clever, often biting in their social commentary, and give us a picture of everyday life during the Regency era.
So, I was a little surprised when author William Deresiewicz started off the book by telling us how much he hated Jane Austen when he was forced to read Emma. After all, this book was about what he learned from Austen's work, right?
Well, it turned out that it was. Deresiewicz eventually becomes such a huge admirer of Austen's work that he decides to write his dissertation about the books -- after he realizes that he can see lessons in them about his own life.
And that, Reader, is what the book hinges on. Six novels, six important lessons about what was really important in life.
What I loved most about this book is the moments when Deresiewicz' observations made me think about something in a new light myself: the former co-worker whom I hadn't liked because she didn't seem smart enough about the things that mattered to me at the time, but whom I now know as a friend and realize that she is savvy about things that matter to the entire world, for example. It was my own Pride and Prejudice moment, as mirrored in something Deresiewicz saw in himself.
This book is intelligent, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.