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A series of letters to a fictional niece, who is struggling to read Jane Austen, is the hook on which Fay Weldon hangs this collection of fifteen essays (for want of a better word) about Jane Austen, her life, her novels, and the era in which she lived. This subject is the basis for thoughts about writing, what it means to be an author, and how people approach the art of writing a book; and how readers consider and enjoy books. The author also offers snippets of advice about life and love to her 18 year old niece.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s very eloquently written, and easy to take in. I learned about aspects of Jane Austen’s life, and discovered new perspectives from which to read her books. It is certainly not necessary to like – or even to have read – Jane Austen to enjoy this book (indeed, the fictional character it is aimed at is not enjoying reading Austen), but I would imagine that if you have never picked up an Austen novel, this would make you want to.

As you might expect, Weldon is forthright, honest and intelligent. She is also often amusing, and made me think – and also made me want to reread Emma very soon!

I would certainly recommend this enjoyable collection of letters, whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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