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An A-Z of Jane Austen

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Member Reviews

I'm a big fan of Jane Austen; have read all her work and read a lot about her and her time. As such this book and the unconventional format, was a fun read. However, I'm not sure it will attract new readers - which might not be the attention of the author at all.
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An A-Z of Jane Austen, by Michael Greaney. I cautiously considered this title before I committed to it. Given the vast number and varying quality of books in the literary-industrial complex aka the Jane Austen pop culture behemoth, I wondered if it would be worth reading. But I was pleased to discover what a wonderful book this was, rewarding to the Jane Austen reader, and to thoughtful readers in general.  The structure based on twenty-six words may be a little random, but hey, it spoke to me, possibly an example of tapping into what attracts contemporary readers. 

These were keenly observed, thoughtful short essays. They enhanced my understanding as a reader and writer: I'm trying to understand "the novel" as I muck around with writing one of my own. The chapter, "Obstacles" for example, is a succinct description of how JA used the device of obstacle in her writing, presented in a fresh way. "Gifts" and the obligation and class implications of them was another. I was also engaged by the chapter "West Indies," as lately,  I have been considering the misery and death that supported the comfortable lives of the class of people in these books. 

The writer is a professor but the work itself is written for a wide audience, not just literature specialists. I wish I had anything near his depth of perception and talent for synthesis. I don't think you'd get as much out of this book if you haven't read Jane Austen, or but for her legion of appreciative readers, this is a valuable companion to her work and fiction in general. I was so happy I gave it a chance!

Thanks to the author, publisher and #netgalley for this review e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

#janeausten #jasna #19thcenturyliterature #lml_reads #bookstagramcanada #halfagonyhalfhope #atruthuniversallyacknowledged #persuasion
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My first thought when I spotted this book was that someone had stolen my idea. Last year I ran my own informal Austen A-Z challenge scouring the alphabet for Austen-ish inspiration. But as soon as I picked this up, I was hooked. An A-Z of Jane Austen  is a fascinating frolic through Austen's canon, skipping between the juvenilia and the main novels to shed fresh light on Austen as a writer. For reformed ex-literature students such as myself, this is a rare delight.

Starting at 'A is for Accident' all the way through to 'Z is for Zigzag', Greaney skips down the alphabet and draws out aspects of Austen which are all too easily missed. But rather than mere titbits crowbarred to fit a particular letter, Greaney has essentially put together twenty-six essays which manage to be both light-hearted and deeply rooted in the text. The nerd in me rejoices at this book but one of the best things about it is that I think it can still be enjoyed by the more casual reader.

My Netgalley copy of this book features extensive highlights. I was unaware of its existence when I decided to do Austen in August again this year and yet it ended up being one of the true highlights. One of the observations which particularly stood out to me was Greaney's entry on 'Kindness'. He comments on the 'moral amnesia' of General Tilney and Willoughby who cast off Catherine Morland and Eliza Williams respectively when their purpose has been served. There is a contrast between the civil veneer and the lack of genuine ethical concern. Displays of generosity are not the same as kindness. General Tilney may host Catherine Tilney for weeks but the kind gesture comes from his daughter Eleanor who makes sure that Catherine actually has enough money to make it home. More troubling though about the nature of Regency society however is how Miss Bates and Mr Collins witter on about the kindness of others which does not truly exist. Lady Catherine is not kind but leans on her privilege. So too does Emma Woodhouse who is pointlessly cruel to Miss Bates. Mr Collins has no choice but to brown-nose his way to a better position within the church as he will find no advancement elsewhere. Similarly, Miss Bates has no way of preventing her own steady slide into poverty. Kindness is insufficient in the face of an unjust society.

Greaney truly considers Austen from all angles, chronicling the various vehicles which power the six main novels, whether it be the horses that took them from place to place, the servants who lurk in the background of every scene or the letters which give Austen's work an 'epistolary scaffolding' long after she had abandoned the form. Letters allow Austen's men to speak for themselves, particularly in the case of Darcy's long letter and Frank Churchill's explanation of his marriage. Letters can be co-authored, whether it is Robert Martin asking his sister to help him write his proposal or Emma Woodhouse in assisting Harriet Smith in rejecting it. Willoughby's disavowal of Marianne is dictated by the woman he eventually marries. Henry Crawford directs his sister's correspondence with Fanny Price. Reading and re-reading letters, often with other characters, creates and sustains intimacy. Mr Bennet ridicules Mr Collins' first letter to his entire family. Lydia's letter announcing her elopement is addressed to Mrs Forster but ends up being read by multiple people and eventually her sisters.

Glancing over the chapters to refresh my memory for this review, I am immediately drawn in again. Greaney hits the nail on the head again and again. There is the question of what Austen's view of match-making might be; however we may mock Mrs Bennet, she did bring her closer together with Bingley and also Elizabeth with Darcy. If Jane had been allowed the carriage, she might not have ended up mistress of Netherfield. But still, Greaney points out that it is wrong to categorise Austen's fiction as depicting successful fortune-hunters. It may be the easy view that Austen wrote about women marrying rich men with big houses, but this is not the case. Elinor Dashwood marries a man who has not the income she herself stated to be necessary for a comfortable existence. In marrying clergymen, Catherine Morland, Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price have a 'reprieve from the implied threat of poverty rather than a passport to fabulous wealth'. When we look at the maligned Mrs and Miss Bates, we are looking at their possible future. And indeed, the character who makes the most advantageous marriage is Maria Bertram and yet it is she who suffers the most short-lived marriage. For most of the characters, poverty is something which can be held at bay but not escaped forever.

Jane Austen was a puzzle, both as a writer and as a person. In A-Z, Greaney seeks to unpack and thus unpick some of the enigma of Austen's opinions and her attitudes and he achieves this with style. But most of all, Greaney has motivated me to re-read yet again. An ideal Christmas present for the Austen fans in your life!
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A really great collection of discussions that dig into some of the many nuances of Austen's works and life. I will be picking up a physical copy to add to my Austen collection.
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I will qualify this by saying that I am a middle-of-the-road Austen enthusiast.  I've read her work, seen the various film/TV adaptations, and read a few analyses and reference texts like this, but I have never done any formal or extensive study of her work and therefore my thoughts need to be considered in that context.

That said, this was interesting reading and contained insights I hadn't seen or considered thoroughly before.   The conceit of "A-Z" didn't feel particularly necessary, but didn't detract from my enjoyment either.   The author's ideas seemed well supported and text is cited when appropriate.  I appreciated the variety of concepts discussed in this and found it very readable.   I learned a little something and enjoyed myself while doing it--what more can one ask, really?

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!
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I love all things Austen -  books, retellings, movies, spinoffs etc. Therefore this book was obviously something I would be drawn to - especially given the delightful cover and I was not disappointed being the firm Austenite that I am. 

‘Be sure to have something odd happen to you’, Austen once wrote to Cassandra, ‘see somebody that you do not expect, meet with some surprise or other.’

This is an A-Z dictionary or mini encyclopedia of matters to do with Jane Austen. The author has taken each letter of the alphabet and selected a word that is somehow connected to Jane Austen’s world. There might be places such as Bath, themes such as Kindness or activities such as Dance. These twenty six key words are the prompt for an essay on each taken from not only Jane's books but also her letters, unfinished novels and other observations. 

‘Nowhere in Austen are relations of status, hierarchy and precedence more formally paraded and stringently enforced than on the dancefloor.’

The book can be read from cover to cover, used to cross reference or simply to browse through certain themes. This fresh structure and thematic approach lends itself to new and thought provoking perspectives. It would be a wonderful addition to any lover of Jane Austen’s collection or, given its academic approach, those seeking to study deeper into her books, reflections and writing. 

‘Letter-reading is a significant social activity in Austen, one that frequently reveals as much about those reading as it does about the text under consideration.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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This was a wonderful exploration of 26 themes present across Austen’s works and personal letters, written with an academic minded analysis that delves into the different aspects of her work and life in an inviting and accessible way. It made me incredibly nostalgic for my university days where I was researching Austen, and this would be a great resource for anyone doing the same - but it’s also an insightful and intriguing read for anyone who is a fan of this literary star from the Georgian era. This book sheds new light and meaning on Austen’s writing and makes me want to dive straight back into her books for another re-read!
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I love books that explains the world, places, and event in a beloved author's life and this one was well researched and informative.
I loved it and learned a lot.
Perfect for anyone who loves Austen and her age.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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This would be a fantastic book for anyone who is obsessed with Jane Austen, her life and her work. It is well researched, written and formatted. I guarantee you will learn something new about the beloved Jane Austen.
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An A-Z of Jane Austen is an enticing collection of themes related to Austen including places, concepts, activities and practices and personhood.  Each of her novels and other writings such as letters are used as references in this witty, sharp, thoughtful and delectable book.  I love that it causes one to think and (re) many examples but I will pay particular attention next time I re-read such as Lady Middleton's headdress grazing her daughter's neck in the Accident section, one of my favourites.  Not only does the reader re-live scenes but look at them differently and contemplate the reasoning behind such details.  

B is for Bath and before reading this book I had not thought of the fact that no one in Austen's books originates from Bath but some do visit the beautiful city.  The F for Friendship section is wonderful and provides insight into pseudo friendships such as with Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe.  Some are even expelled.  Gifts are powerful things, as the author notes.  She explains why.  The Illness chapter is gripping as well.  In ways it was fashionable and exaggerated as "performance".  Letters are included for a plethora of reasons and the "xis" code bit later on is especially enchanting.  Saying No (often in a muddled fashion) is another compelling chapter.  Servants are in stories but are never more than glimpses and brief appearances.  This is just a sliver of what to expect in this delightful book.

Jane Austen is one of my most beloved authors and always will be.  I bet she would enjoy reading this!  What fun it would be to learn her thoughts on it.  Adoring fans of Austen (and those who simply wish more insight into her writing and life) will enjoy learning more. 

My sincere thank you to Bloomsbury Academic and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this simultaneously fun and eye-opening book
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“𝑷𝒂𝒓𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒄𝒉𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝑨𝒖𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒌, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒆𝒓 𝒊𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒐 𝒔𝒂𝒚 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒇𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕'𝒔 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒆𝒒𝒖𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒔𝒖𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕'𝒔 𝒓𝒆𝒘𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒍𝒚 '𝒅𝒆𝒆𝒑', 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝒂𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒃𝒂𝒄𝒌𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅, 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒐𝒄𝒄𝒖𝒑𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒆-𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒈𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒖𝒊𝒔𝒉𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒂𝒓𝒈𝒊𝒏𝒔.“

I will request any book that references Jane Austen on Netgalley and I will not apologize for it! This book is a collection of essays using an A-Z format to highlights recurring themes in her life and stories (I is for Illness, L for letters, etc) 

Overall, a well developed dive into her work. Given the A-Z format, it jumps around a bit but the plus side being you can then read any essay in any order, too. This was a great one for me to have on my kindle app whenever I was waiting for an appointment or had a few minutes to kill to read another essay. Definitely reads more like an encyclopedia, rather than lively stories.

 📚Read this if you like:
	⁃	Anything Jane Austen
	⁃	General author research 

My ratings: 
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

"An A-Z of Jane Austen" by Michael Greaney is a great read for any Austen fans out there and I will definitely be purchasing a physical copy once it hits shelves. The book takes readers through an "A to Z" list of themes and motifs from Austen's books, letters, and juvenilia. I found it to be extremely interesting to think back on my past experiences reading Austen through the lens of some of the topics in this book. This book would make a fantastic gift for any individual who loves Austen and is interested in adding more context to her work.
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I love all things Austen. I'll read the book. I'll watch the movies. And I'll read every retelling, prequel and sequel. So this book was certainly right up my alley. And I was not disappointed. I would recommend this book to all Austenites!

👍 What I Enjoyed 👍

Themes: This is an encyclopedia of Austen's world and authorship. For each letter of the alphabet, Greany has chosen a word connected in some way to Austen to enlighten. Some words were places, some words were people. Some were things. But my favourite ones were probably the themes. Like F for friendship. I loved how Greany took that theme and analyzed it across Austen's different writings. It gave me a new appreciation of the stories, I have always loved.

Context: Austen and her writing has stood the test of time. She is still read and loved by readers around the world. But often it is easy to take her writing out of context. Out of her time. Out of the environment that she wrote in. Greany goes a long way to reintroduce that context.

Austen: As I said, I read a lot of Austen - and a lot of things related to Austen. Earlier this year I even went on an Austen vacation and visited her house in Chawton. But this was something I had never come across before. It was a completely new and fresh take on Austen and her writings that was both informative and entertaining.
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If you love Jane Austen and have read most of her novels, this fast read is for you!

The author, Dr Michael Greaney is a senior lecturer at Lancaster University, whose research focuses on fiction since 1800. In this book, his passion shines and helps us dive into the Austen Universe. It’s filled with big themes and fun details, common throughout her books. It delights you with “Aha moments” and “Oh, I’ve noticed that too!” – at least it did for me, an avid reader of all Jane Austen’s novels.

The writing is clear, sometimes funny, but always filled with wonderful examples to illustrate the point the author is making. It shows a deep and thorough understanding of all Jane Austen’s works and it made me want to reread them all again!

I think this book helped me see a bigger picture and grasp a better understanding of the significance of some of the details in Austen’s novels.

Be warned – it is a literary commentary – so maybe not for everybody! If you enjoyed Jane Austen’s books just as a form of escapism and are not really interested in getting a deeper understanding of her work, this may not be for you.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, however, because it reminded me of everything I read and put everything in context. There are many things I realise now I hadn’t understood or noticed the first time I read her novels.

What “An A-Z of Jane Austen” Is About
This book starts a discussion around themes in Jane Austen’s work. It includes everything Jane Austen ever wrote (even letters). It tries to answer questions around her way of writing – Why are so few children present or what are the subtleties of the act of dancing in her novels?

One of the best parts is, of course, the way it was constructed. For each letter of the alphabet, Dr. Michael Greaney discusses an intriguing theme that spans throughout multiple or all of Jane Austen’s books:

A is for Accidents
B is for Bath
C is for Children
D is for Dance
E is for Eyes
F is for Friend
G is for Gift
H is for Horse
I is for Illness
J is for Jane
K is for Kindness
L is for Letters
M is for Matchmaking
N is for No
O is for Obstacle
P is for Poor
Q is for Queer
R is for Risk
S is for Servant
T is for Theatre
U is for Unexpected
V is for Visit
W is for West Indies
X is for Xis
Y is for Young
Z is for Zigzag
I recommend this small encyclopedia to all of Jane Austen’s lovers who want to deepen their understanding of her works and of the related Regency era customs!

Quotes from “An A-Z of Jane Austen” by Michael Greaney
If you are not convinced yet, here are some quotes from the book, just so you get a feel of it and see if you resonate with its writing:

When a woman falls in Austen there is usually a man on hand to catch – or nearly catch – her.

Mr. Dixon saves Jane Fairfax; Willowughby gathers up Marianne Dashwood; Wentworth lets Louisa slip through his fingers. All three fallers, whether or not they are physically intercepted, will eventually be “caught” by the wider structures of patriarchy.

As a rule, when Austen writes about Bath in these texts she writes against it. Repeatedly, the town is envisioned in her writings as a scene of intoxicatingly fatuous bustle, a place where newcomers are briefly dazzled by a brilliant mirage of social excitement that soon fades into something oppressively humdrum.

Children seem, on the face of it, to be second-class citizens in Austen’s narrative worlds. They are plentiful enough but they are not always carefully individuated; they can be noisy but they are not given much in the way of intelligible dialogue; they can be hyperactive but their doings are not shaped into storylines whose outcomes we are invested in;

Nowhere in Austen are relations of status, hierarchy and precedence more formally paraded and stringently enforced than on the dancefloor. Powerful unwritten rules govern who can and can’t be invited, who can address whom, who leads the dances and who dances with whom.

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(October 6th, 2022)

For Jane Austen fans, this is one of the best books one can read to discover the most intricate details about her life, her letters and her novels.

I took me a while to finish this book, but it was worth every second. I learned so much from it, from how the word 'eye' fits into Austen's narratives or even 'xis' was written as a riddle or something more. It truly taught me a lot about one of the best author's from the English literature and the smallest details from her books.

Interesting and informative, Michael Greaney really did an amazing job to show the world of Jane Austen in ways I never saw it. Also, the cover is absolutely amazing and I love every part of it.

Signing off,
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Enjoyable, if random (for me, the randomness was part of the charm), collection of short essays - some I enjoyed more than others, but that is the nature of a collection, I suppose.  Not ideally suited for a very casual Austen fan, these pieces all came down more on the scholarly side of things. 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC copy for my review.
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A lovely alphabetic way into gems from Jane Austin her life and her books, it introduces the reader into not only her well known books but also the lesser known ones. A great coffee table pick up and put down book.
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An A-Z of Jane Austen is a collection of 26 short essays about Jane Austen's works based around a word starting with each letter of the alphabet. I enjoyed this book, but it definitely has more of an academic tone. Overall, I found this to be very informative. 

*I received a review copy from the publisher through Netgalley
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

Right off the bat, this book is *way* more scholarly than I originally thought it would be. I thought I knew what was getting myself into, but dang, that was intense.

I could definitely see this book being used as an university text or maybe even an Austen superfan.
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I've read and enjoyed essays based on Jane Austen's work before, so I was hoping to find a lively, entertaining collection of thoughts in this book.  Instead, it was a rather dry, scholarly work, probably more suited to research if you are hoping to write your own thesis on Jane Austen.  But for a casual reader looking to be entertained, there's not much here that's relatable or fresh.  It feels more like reading a dictionary or an encyclopedia.
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