Book Review: The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"Women today are settling for less than we want when it comes to men, relationships, sex, and marriage. But we don’t have to, argues Elizabeth Kantor. Jane Austen can show us how to find the love we really want.

In The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Kantor reveals how the examples of Jane Austen heroines such as Elizabeth Bennett, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Elliot can help us navigate the modern-day minefields of dating, love, relationships, and sex. By following in their footsteps—and steering clear of the sad endings suffered by characters such as Maria Bertram and Charlotte Lucas—modern women can discover the path to lifelong love and true happiness.

Charged with honesty and humor, Kantor's book includes testimonies from modern women, pop culture parallels, the author's personal experiences and, of course, a thorough examination of Austen's beloved novels.

Featuring characters and situations from all of Jane Austen’s books (including unfinished novels, and stories not published in her lifetime), The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After tackles the dating and relationship dilemmas that we face today, and equips modern women to approach our love lives with fresh insights distilled from the novels."



The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After was not at all what I expected. Although the premise is lighthearted, Kantor actually conducts a thorough literary criticism (of the Romantics, and their influence on modern day thinking) and defense of Austen's view of romance, with supporting evidence from all of her published novels (plus The Watsons, Lady Susan, and personal letters) and from modern articles written on dating (especially among millennials).


There are a lot of footnotes. I was flipping to the back of the book (about 30 pages of footnotes there) 2-8 times per page, to read her asides. Some of them have a light, dry humor to them, but mostly they're academic in support of assertions that she's made. Although this book was heftier than expected, I did enjoy it. It got me re-considering Fanny (I usually think of her as a buzzkill holier-than-thou heroine, but now I'm considering her more as a "stick to your guns, no matter what" heroine). It also got me looking (in horror) at my dear Jane Eyre, as the antithesis to Austen romanticism. 


She also introduced me to some concepts I wish I'd learned in my lit classes, regarding society during Austen's time. Viewing her novels as a sharp criticism of Romantic lit, and knowing things like what 'candour' originally meant, have led me down a rabbit hole of new understandings. And then there's the consideration about relationships- how proximity (standard in Austen's day) and a social duty to theorize the best reactions to situations in order to have character/integrity change how we interact with everyone, and how we lack both in modern times.


I definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in Austen, especially if you have the patience for literary essays, a familiarity with the Romantics (Byron, Shelley, Keats, the Brontes, etc.), and don't mind an author occasionally being redundant and assumptive. 
You don't need to know Austen's novels very well- the supporting footnote quotes make up for a lack of memory on the deeper subplots of her novels. It's great advice for people in general, not just frustrated singles, and its also educational for those of us who enjoy Regency history and sociology. 


But you should also read it if you're single and a fan of classic lit (romantic, and/or Romantic) because I guarantee you'll get something out of it.


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