Cover Image: Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life

Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I want to thank Netgalley and the author for gifting me the ebook. A great Christian novel. Non-fiction. If you are a Jane Austen fan you will love this.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book so much. I read 6 Jane Austen's novels before reading this book. It was so helpful. Well done, author.
I hope it'll translate to another languages. 
Thank you Netgalley and publisher for free ARC in exchange of honest review. All thoughs are my own.
Was this review helpful?
This book, Jane Austen's Genius Guide to Life, is as delightful as anything Jane would have written herself! It is refreshingly delightful, filled with much needed parallels between Jane Austen's stories and real life. I found that I would smile as I read the chapters. Well done!
Was this review helpful?
This is a book looking at Jane Austen’s works as a guide to life, from a Catholic perspective. Although I would call myself a Christian, and was baptised Catholic, I didn’t have a religious upbringing, so am not coming at this book from a Catholic perspective. Austen was not Catholic, but was obviously born at a time when religion was much more a part of everyday life. When you think of some of the clergymen she wrote (Mr Elton in Emma and Pride & Prejudice’s Mr Collins, for example) you could be forgiven for thinking that she didn’t hold religion in high regard but I believe that she held hypocritical clergymen in low regard. Austen is known to have written prayers and I think had a belief in God. Moreover, I think she had a belief that it was important to have a moral code and improve yourself. When you think of her novels, most of them have a strong correlation between good morals and good outcomes.

I love Austen’s novels for the fact that we have realistic good and bad in the characters – at the time most heroines were tiresomely perfect, and Austen’s heroines had flaws, while her less admirable characters also have redeeming characteristics. Some characters, like Marianne in S&S, learn to behave differently, and this helps on her road to happiness. Others, like Lydia Bennet in P&P or Maria Bertram in MP, behave outside the moral code, don’t change their ways are punished by their outcomes.

'Austen’s villains make excuses, view the world through a fog of selfishness, and are incapable of loving other people well. They are in a hell of their own making – and without contrition and transformation, they will stay there. '

Ms Stewart looks at the 6 main novels of Austen and looks at the lessons we can learn from them in detail, relating them to everyday modern life events.

One of the things that I think make Austen’s novels so timeless is that they are about people, rather than events, which are universal, and the author looks at many of their faults, and what we could learn about ourselves from reading Austen’s books.

'Do you have those trustworthy Mr. Knightleys in your life? Do you have people who will call you out because they love you? '

As highlighted in the book description, focus is put on each of the novels and how Austen’s novels teach us how to cultivate the virtues of humility, compassion, temperance, constancy, fortitude and prudence.

One aspect I liked is that the author mentions the novels having moments of ‘undeception’, where usually the heroine, but sometimes the hero realises where they have been wrong. This hadn’t occurred to me, but it was interesting to think of the moments in each novel with this in mind.

Dante’s 'The Divine Comedy' was mentioned many times, almost as though it was as important as the Bible. I am not sure how this work is regarded in Catholic culture but the author seems to think that we should be aware of it and agree with it. I looked it up after reading and it seems to be a work from 1320 which was hugely successful in its time and centuries after. It has had a lot of influence on popular conceptions of hell.

At the end of the book there are book discussion questions, and summaries of the six main novels for those who were unfamiliar with the works, which I thought were a useful addition.

I enjoyed reading this book. It gave me food for thought. There are some religious themes and comments such as working towards becoming the person God wants you to be, but I think that should be expected in a book that is billed clearly as being Catholic. I’d rate this as a 4 star read.
Was this review helpful?
Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life by Haley Stewart.
This book teaches how to become your best self by using examples from the characters in Jane Austen novels.
I found this book very uplifting. It gives great insight to the characters in each novel and how we can live more virtuous lives. The book is full of quotes from the books and religious icons like C.S.Lewis and Mother Theresa. It is a great read for Jane Austen fans!
Thank you to NetGalley and Ave Maria Press for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Was this review helpful?
As a Janeite, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. I'm not a Catholic, but then, neither was Jane Austen. The idea of how to be a better person through reading Austen sounded intriguing. But I found this book to be a bit all over the place (there's a digression, an anecdote, or a non-Austen literary reference in almost every paragraph), and the preachy religious content feels a bit shoehorned in, e.g.:

"Through her stories, she reveals to us a blueprint for how to become a good person—awakening self-knowledge, cultivating humility (by the grace of community), and achieving that spiritual transformation that is necessary to become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). She shows us how to become holy, to follow in the steps of the saints."

So I guess I'd still like to read a guide for better living through Austen; this wasn't it for me.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to review a temporary digital ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
I very much enjoyed this book. It made me want to stop everything else I was reading and pick up a Jane Austen novel. The book centers around Christian vices and virtues--and it is definitely written from a Catholic perspective. There is significant discussion of Mary the Mother of Jesus as an example. Although I am not Catholic, I still enjoyed the book and felt that i learned much.  

Thank you Netgalley for the free e-book in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was a neat read! I loved to see the idea of Jane as a Christian, and how her writing was influenced by her beliefs.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you, Netgalley and the author/publisher, for the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader's copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own.

Wow, that was a nice take on the Jane Austen's books! First off, let me start with a disclaimer! I am not one of the Jane Austen fans. In fact, I had to switch from the ebook to the audiobook to even finish Pride and Prejudice. It is not that I don't like Jane Austen. I just find her writing very hard to read since it is the "old English." In addition, English is not my native language. So that is an additional obstacle. But anyway, I did read P&P and I did read Mansfield Park. I enjoyed the discussion we had in my book club group on Facebook. With that being said, here is my review of this particular Jane Austen-inspired book:

The author does an amazing job taking the characters in Jane Austen's books and using their character traits and actions to "teach a lesson" about Christian values. However, she does not come from a "high and mighty" perspective but rather illustrates how Jesus would react/act/respond. She includes virtues such as compassion, humility, prudence, empathy & selflessness, loving one another, not judging others but looking at our own shortcomings, etc. Three of my takeaways are: (i) that there are no perfect saints and sinners, we are/can be both; (2) if we know who we are in God, act accordingly, and stay true to ourselves, we can fend off the enemy's attacks and we don't act on a whim or buckle under the pressure of others. My favorite quote from the book is this: "We are given a temperament, but we have the opportunity to build our own characters." Saying "that is just who he/she is" or "that is just how I'm wired" shouldn't be an excuse for someone's actions. It is our choice to let the "beast" out and let our temperament take over or not. 

Note for those who have not given their life to Jesus or think that this book is only for believers, this book is helpful for everyone regardless of their faith and where they are in their walk with Christ. The virtues and character traits the author describes based on Jane Austen's characters apply to everyone, Christians don't own the rights to them!

Also, if you have never read Jane Austen's book or, like me, only a few,  this book is still for you (if you don't mind a few spoilers here or there). The author doesn't only include the development of the characters over time but also includes a short synopsis of the books at the end of the book.
Was this review helpful?
Haley Stewart mentions a story by Flannery O'Connor, an old woman turns to goodness just before a serial murderer kills her. Jane Austen's heroines don't wait until they are dying to start striving for virtue! We can see in almost all of them, and in all of her books, the interior struggle between goodness and vice. The author brilliantly analyses each heroine and novel from a uniquely Catholic persective, and inspires readers to turn back to reading Jane Austen again.

Here are Elizabeth, witty and charming but prejudiced, wealthy Emma with every advantage, but selfish, and Marianne, over-emotional and lacking in temperance. They must each discover their flaws, and 'wake up' in the course of the novels. Fanny and Anne, on the other hand, exemplify certain values, but the heroes of Mansfield Park and Persuasion have to learn to be better people.

Jane Austen is one of my favourite writers, and it is fascinating to think of her as a 'life coach', and see these valuable insights into her work. Haley Stewart also discusses such eminent writers as C.S. Lewis and Alasdair MacIntyre to show how Jane Austen writes about the struggle to be good. This is a lovely book for any Jane Austen fan.

EDITION    Paperback

ISBN           9781646801398

PRICE        $16.95 (USD)
Was this review helpful?
As a fan of Jane Austen and a Catholic, I was instantly excited to read this book! I love the premise of this book. Haley Stewart uses Austen's characters to explore human relationships. As noted in the description, it is a literary and spiritual journey that can lead us to discover who God has called us to be.
While Jane Austen lived and wrote in the 1800s, her characters and the issues they grapple with are timeless and just as applicable today. 

Stewart walks the reader through the plot and characters for each novel, so technically, you can enjoy this book without reading Austen's books, though I highly recommend that everyone read Austen's books! Stewart guides the reader through Austen's novels, exploring the character's vices and virtues and the many opportunities to learn and grow from them. I love that there are group study questions in the back. I enjoyed thinking about the answers to these questions on my own. 
His book is one I will order upon its release and will read again as a devotional of sorts. It would also be a great book club book or an incredible women's group retreat and even include watching it alongside movie adaptations.
Was this review helpful?
It wasn;t until I started reading this book I realized I was not the target audience for this book. I have read some Austen but am not a fangirl so to speak and found this book unappealing.
Was this review helpful?
Excellent read. It was interesting to read a catholic perspective on Austen. I myself am not catholic, but there were still many edifying points made in this book. The author did a great job of analyzing the characters across Austen’s numerous. Changed my perspective on several of them and she drew out some details I had not noticed before. (I received the ARC for this book, but the review is entirely my own opinion.)
Was this review helpful?
In her concise, "chatting with a friend over coffee" style, Haley Stewart delves into all six of Jane Austen's novels and how Austen depicts the classical vices and through the growth of her heroes and heroines, calls the reader to embrace the cardinal and theological virtues. Hiding behind the fun and airy title is a book that, through the examination of literature, explores the philosophy and theology of a well-lived life. The reader doesn't have to be familiar with these beloved tales - for those who haven't read Austen, Stewart summarizes the plots and relevant character arcs. But, for those who have read Austen's work, she provides an additional lens through which to view it. Either way, you'll come away from this book encouraged and challenged...and probably wanting to pick up at least one of Austen's books and watch an adaptation or two.
Was this review helpful?
Being a fan of classics, virtue laden romcoms and self-help, this book is the perfect amalgamation of happiness. I pre-ordered the hardcover already, because I know I will revisit this one many times. Bravo Haley Stewart!
Was this review helpful?
Retitle this unique and motivating book to "What Would Jane Do?" and you've got a good sense of what it's about. Perfect for Janeites and anyone who seeks a Catholic perspective on how to live with integrity and joy. Out March 25.

Thanks to the author, Ave Maria Press, and NetGalley for the ARC; opinions are mine.

#janeaustensgeniusguidetolife #avemariapress #netgalley
Was this review helpful?
What a lovely book to accompany Jane Austen’s novels. I am a big Austen fan and I loved this connection between her books and the Catholic faith, which is so important and dear to me.

Haley Stewart takes us on a walk through each of Austen’s six finished novels and and connects characters to each of the virtues we should all strive to be examples of. She then connects the story to an image of the Blessed Mother, reminding the reader of the many forms Our Lady takes and how she is there to help us grow in these virtues.

One does not need to be Catholic or to have read Austen’s novels to appreciate the writing in this book.  At the back of the book is a summary of each novel and the main characters which help in understanding the chapters. 

I recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen looking for a new take on her work. This will be a book I purchase a copy of to refer to when I read more of Austen’s work. Those who are Catholic will appreciate the connections, but one doesn’t have to be Catholic or religious to appreciate the connection to the virtues discussed in this book.

Thank you to Ave Maria Press, NetGalley, and Haley Stewart for the copy of this book in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Was this review helpful?
Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life delves into the virtues and vices found in Austen’s various novels. It draws from the character that represents these virtues or vices and expounds on how we as believers can use them to live out a more godly life. I love how the author draws quotes from a wide range of other authors, such as C.S. Lewis, and how they point out the genius in Austen writing characters that were true to life and real making them relatable to her reading audience. Also loved the notes about the novels found in the back of the book to help the reader become more familiar with a novel and it’s characters. This book would definitely enrich any readers life as they learn to be more virtuous in their own lives.
Was this review helpful?
This was a very sweet book for Jane Austen fans, and Austen fans to-be. It goes through her major novels, discussing the life lessons we can learn from Austen’s complex realistic characters. She writes,

“The majority of our lives is not played out in dramatic moments of political intrigue or in war rooms. Our lives are made up of small things; dealing with financial worries, conversing with irritating neighbors, regretting past decisions, making small misjudgments of others. (…) For those of us who are regular folks,  or kings or generals, her presentation of successes and failures in virtues shows us what it looks like for ordinary men and women to try to become good people.”

And it is true, there is a lot to learn from the journeys Austen’s characters go on, the mistakes they make and how they grow as people and learn to see themselves and others in new ways. 

I enjoyed the discussion on “Pride & Prejudice”, “Northanger Abbey”, and “Emma”, I actually felt more sympathy for Marianne in the “Sense & Sensibility” discussion, but my favorites were the takes on Fanny Price and Anne Elliot.

Fanny Price will never be my favorite, but it did feel like I got a better perspective on her, and I kind of felt like “Mansfield Park” should be required reading in high school as a lesson in valuing virtue over charm (I.e. being able to develop a fortitude to resist peer pressure and value yourself as you are, even if that makes you less “fun”). Let’s be Fanny, not Edmund.

“Edmund wants to do what is right, but he is bamboozled by charm - he does not have the moral strength and courage to stay committed to the right course of action under pressure from others.” 

This discussion made me feel called out though, because I DO fall for the charm of the Crawfords and prefer them over Fanny. In usual cases I don’t really like romantic narratives that are about a woman changing a man into a better man, but when Henry Crawford steps on the scene I’m all “go on girl, you can change him! You should totally marry him!” (So it was a relief later when the author admitted that she too was swayed by his  charm and wished that it turned out differently and that he really could make himself worthy of Fanny)

My favorite discussion was about “Persuasion” however, it is such a slight novel, yet thee is so much depth to it and it also feels so different from other Austen novels, which Stewart points out why. There is a darkness to it that feels more mature and Anne, though long suffering, is far more loveable than Fanny. Anne may be the heroine we have the most to learn from actually, but not only her, Captain Wentworth has some life lessons for us as well, to take to heart,

All in all, if you like Austen this is probably for you. I read some scholarly books on Austen studies last year, which was interesting,  but this was definitely more fun, there is so much heart and warmth in this. Stewart is a true fan girl in the best way. 

I liked the personal touches that were part of the narrative and felt very relatable (liking thinking you’re a patient person, before you have kids…), I am supremely jealous though that she got to read a philosophy paper on Austen in front of none other than Alisdair MacIntyre! As a fan of “After Virtue” that sounded amazing.

Now, for me who’s read the books not only multiple times, but also recently for a book club, the recaps of the stories were not necessary, and neither were the summaries at the end, however, for someone who didn’t recently read the books or haven’t read them, these are excellent and makes the book very accessible. Perhaps it will get some Austen skeptics interested in picking up (getting hooked) on her novels!

This book taught me to look at some characters in new ways and take some new thoughts into my next reading of the novels. I haven’t thought of Jane Austen as a life coach before, but it turns out she makes a pretty good one. So, if you’re curious, this is a sweet little read Austen fans will like.

Oh and,

“The novel is chock full of memorable characters such as Colonel Brandon (played perfectly in the 1995 film by the late Alan Rickman - and no, I’m still not over his death, thanks for asking)” 

…. Same girl, same!

(And how didn’t I know Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay for that movie!?)

Thank you to Ave Maria Press and NetGalley for this ARC, all opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Both eloquent and thoughtful, the author does a good job explaining how Jane Austen's novels, characters, and personal life express eternally minded virtues and ideas.  As a fan of Jane Austen and a person of faith I enjoyed reading this book and I'm inspired to finish reading more of Austen's novels.
Was this review helpful?