English teachers at schools everywhere ought to plunge into this thoroughly impressive and convincing re-reading of Jane Austen’s works — but it will throw all their lesson plans into disarray.
Austen expert Helena Kelly takes the author’s catalogue of works, much adapted, much loved, and turns them upside down, shaking out the petticoats and love stories to find a dark, politically motivated underbelly.
Beneath the drawing room chatter and matchmaking, Kelly points us toward Austen’s carefully woven-in ideas and opinions on, among others, the deadliness of marriage and motherhood, corruption in the church, and the debilitating poverty caused by enclosure of common lands. At times you feel berated for having ever fallen for the romantic plotlines, the films, the blossoming love stories and the sillier characters.
Whether you agree with her or not you’ll definitely see Austen’s works differently from now on.
Jane Austen: The Secret Radical
con Books, €23.85; ebook, €13.60
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved