Books about Books, Non-fiction

An A-Z of Jane Austen

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.

“An A-Z of Jane Austen”, Michael Greaney

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.

“An A-Z of Jane Austen”, Michael Greaney

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.

“An A-Z of Jane Austen”, Michael Greaney

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;

“An A-Z of Jane Austen”, Michael Greaney

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.

“An A-Z of Jane Austen”, Michael Greaney

Do you want to read it? The book can be found here (the link will take you to GoodReads).

If you like Jane Austen, check out this article about my favourite Jane Austen book:

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