The title tells the tale of this story where two men- Steve Chandler and Terry Hill- in their 60’s, who have been friends since grade school, decide to read and exchange thoughts on the novels of Jane Austen. They have a reading plan and have already decided which novels they are going to cover- Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride & Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. They decide on a certain amount of chapters each week and exchange their observations in a series of thoughtful and humorous e-mails, with the occasional letter thrown in for good measure. You know that these men know and care about each other very much, and it was a pleasure to experience their decades long friendship through their warm exchanges. The literary criticism gives fun food for thought without being dry, and allowing the reader enough room to examine what is being offered and to form their own opinions.
I loved reading this book and getting to know Steve and Terry. It was truly like being in a room and listening to two witty and fun relatives banter back and forth on all types of subjects like family, love, personal struggles and careers, and relate their findings to the books they were reading. I love the way they regularly and richly dipped into the stories of their own lives in order to illustrate their points, or used situations in Jane Austen’s novels to compare and contrast with modern times. They even discussed the film versions of the novels and other books based on her works.
I had only read a couple of the stories that they had chosen to read, but even so I was able to follow along on the rest of the stories. Both men give just enough so that you get the general ideas of the stories, and strike a fine balance that doesn’t get bogged down in detail. You can enjoy what they have to say and still be able to read and enjoy the novels. As I was reading this book I found that it didn’t matter whether I had read Jane Austen or not. The authors were great about giving the history of the time period in which Jane Austen wrote,and some of the details of the her life and the circumstances under which she wrote. Once again, they struck the perfect balance. Knowing this, I know that I can also pick up an enjoy their other books whether I have read up on the subject or not!