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What we talk about when we talk about Jane   

Caroline Doherty de Novoa

Pull up a bar stool, order a glass of your favourite tipple, and tell me, what do you talk about when you talk about Jane Austen?

Is it that shirt? The one that emerged from a lake in Pemberley? The one that came from Andrew Davies’s pen and not Jane Austen’s quill?

Is it the best opening line in the history of English literature? Yes, it is the best. There is no point denying it, it is a truth universally acknowledged…

Or is it that friend of yours, the one who is such an Emma, always meddling in other people’s lives?

Or, perhaps, you talk about something else entirely. The authors in this book do.

They talk about the lost art of letter writing.

They talk about Lydia. For there is always a Lydia, and people are always talking about her.

They talk about the alt-right and the slave trade.

They talk about what it takes to be a Jane Austen heroine (and no, by heroine they don’t always mean Elizabeth, but Anne and Fanny, too).  

They talk about terrifying professors and reluctant students.

They talk about family. About tradition. About heirlooms.

They talk about her work as an antidote to war.

They talk about falling in love.  

And, in the midst of it all, they talk about Jane.

What cocktail would she order if she could join us today? Can you imagine what she’d have to say after a glass or two of her favourite tipple? Would she talk about love and marriage? Or would her opening gambit be more along the lines of  ‘isn’t it terrible about Chechnya’?

One of the works in this collection is called Jane Austen lives in India, but this book is a testament to the fact that you’ll also find her in Hong Kong, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, the East Coast of the US and the West Coast, and quite a few places in between. And she’s in Colombia, Canada and, of course, the countryside of England, too.

So get comfortable, order yourself another cocktail, and let’s start the conversation…

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