Jane Austen’s Little Advice Book, by Cathryn Michon & Pamela Norris
It is well that this book does not claim to be a serious or academic book, because it is not, but it is not necessarily the worse for it. This is a light-hearted book that is written by those who know that they are sometimes picking quotes from people who Austen was using as object lessons or as the subjects of her rapier wit. In the hands of lesser people, like the maker of the 10 pound note, some of the quotes here would be real howlers, but fortunately the authors appear to be in on the joke and make the book part of the joke as well. The writers have found a lot of fun quotes not only from Austen’s novels but also her less familiar stories and even her letters. If this book is not academic, it is certainly the result of extensive reading of Austen’s works, and selection of entertaining and humorous and often highly relevant quotes concerning various subjects. The result is something that should be entertaining and enjoyable for many readers. I was amused by it and enjoyed it, and I think many others will feel the same way.
This book is a short one at a bit more than 100 pages and it is divided into several unnumbered chapters. After a short introduction the authors launch into some quotations from Austen about the relationships between men and women, a key area of importance for Austen in her writing and in her life as well. This is followed by a look at love and marriage, including spinsterhood. This is followed by a discussion of family, including a rather ingenious way of family planning. The next chapter discusses Jane Austen’s views and writings on worldly things, including money. This is followed by a look at wit and wisdom about the human condition. After this comes a look at social matters, including fashion and gossip. The last few chapters of the book then cover matters like the literary life, odd topics (including wine, dentistry, and the failure of surprise parties), and Jane Austen predictions of the future, as well as some closing comments and a bibliography.
How one feels about a book like this depends on a variety of factors. For one, this book is obviously the sort of work that is seeking to cash in on the popularity of Jane Austen to mass audiences, and if that sort of thing offends you it should be recognized. In addition to that, this is an advice book that is clearly not meant to be taken entirely seriously, and again, if that is important to you, this may be a bit of an issue. Neither of these were issues for me personally, although I can see how they would be for others. And that is something that has to be taken into account when one chooses to read a book like this one.