Jane Austen, the Secret Radical (Paperback)
A brilliant, illuminating reassessment of the life and work of Jane Austen that makes clear how Austen has been misread for the past two centuries and that shows us how she intended her books to be read, revealing, as well, how subversive and daring--how truly radical--a writer she was.
In this fascinating, revelatory work, Helena Kelly--dazzling Jane Austen authority--looks past the grand houses, the pretty young women, past the demure drawing room dramas and witty commentary on the narrow social worlds of her time that became the hallmark of Austen's work to bring to light the serious, ambitious, deeply subversive nature of this beloved writer. Kelly illuminates the radical subjects--slavery, poverty, feminism, the Church, evolution, among them--considered treasonous at the time, that Austen deftly explored in the six novels that have come to embody an age. The author reveals just how in the novels we find the real Jane Austen: a clever, clear-sighted woman "of information," fully aware of what was going on in the world and sure about what she thought of it. We see a writer who understood that the novel--until then seen as mindless "trash"--could be a great art form and who, perhaps more than any other writer up to that time, imbued it with its particular greatness.
“A sublime piece of literary detective work. . . . Kelly shows us that the novels were about nothing more or less than the burning political questions of the day.” —The Guardian
“Do we read Jane Austen’s novels as she intended? In this riveting literary-biographical study, the answer is a resounding no . . . An interpretive coup that is dazzling and dizzying . . . You won’t read Austen the same way again.” —The New Yorker
“A fresh take on the life and work of the beloved writer Jane Austen . . . Reveals the subversive rebel soul behind [the] towering classics.” —Elle
“An important revisionary work. . . . Kelly’s readings are indeed eye-opening.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Ambitious . . . illuminating, provocative. . . . Kelly offers a salutary argument for reading Austen’s novels with the serious attentiveness they invite and deserve.” —The Spectator