Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jane Austen's Guide To Dating--Lauren Henderson

My family has caught the Jane Austen bug. We're all watching the PBS versions, and my mom has picked up all the books too. I am woefully behind on the films, but I am catching up. We now have topics of conversation.

Between the advent of the series and MFA Jane and I taking up worldwide domination by dating, I've had to bring out my copy of this title. It deserves more widespread attention. It has been sadly neglected in the readalike lists for Austen that I've seen. This is my favorite dating advice book. Most dating books make me feel unnatural. Apparently, I am a man--I am direct, I don't grasp the games and witholding affection, waiting annoys me. I like you, please kiss me. The only thing I do right is wear a skirt. Oh, hell.

I love this book because of the commonsense approach combining advice, case studies, and analysis of literature. Lauren Henderson distills 10 dating principles from all of which are commonsense ways of dealing people in any relationship, not just courtship. Show your interest, trust yourself, don't settle, look for someone who will bring out the best in you. She then brings in as evidence regular modern people who screwed up or succeeded in love, and analyzes all the couple in Austen's novels, from the doomed (Marianne and Willoughby) the unhappy (Mr. & Mrs. Bennet, Charles and Mary Musgrove), and the happy (Darcy and Elizabeth, Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot).

This book is addictive and readable. It's a bit of a crib book on the novels, since it goes into great detail about the characters and plots. There's quizzes to help you figure out what Austen heroine you may be, and which hero your fellow may be and how well you are suited. And the stories Henderson tells back up her theories and analysis persuasively. She's got a chatty tone to this book that reassures and guides the reader. It's very girlfriend/sister giving advice. But most importantly, it is reassuring to those of us who may feel confused and apprehensive about putting ourselves out there and trying to find a mate. As modern women we may not be financially dependent on the institution of marriage to secure our futures, but the search for love and partnership is still nerve-wracking. Henderson counsels that by being yourself you will wind up in the best situation for you, which is more important than perception of status or wealth by those outside the relationship (example, Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars).

Henderson is best know for her mystery series with renegade sculptor Sam Jones, a great series whose irreverent narrator toned down some horrific events. This nonfiction book shares arch observations of human nature and great humor.


Hugh Ryan said...

Have you read any of the Jasper Fforde novels - The Eyre Affair, The Well of Lost Plots, etc.? They are fantastic, fun modern re-imaginings, not just of Austen, but of the literature canon in general.

Nice blog, btw.

Kerry said...

They are favorites! I tried turning Aunt Mary Jane onto them (and perhaps Jane should look under the lamp on the table next to the sofa if she's looking for something to read--go look, Jane!), although I am totally confused by the fact there's a new one out as I thought the series had come to a bit on an end. An excellent end.

Have you seen Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full, the detective story with the sheep? I thought that was rather similar. We had it in the RA section at the Euc, so it's available through Clevnet. I didn't get to finish it, but the start was really promising.

And thanks!

Hugh Ryan said...

Oh, no I haven't! But I'll have to check them out. Sounds like the Nursery Crime series that Fforde did post-Eyre Affair. I've only read the first, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Although I'm not a huge Terry Pratchett fan, something about Good Omens also remind me of the Fforde books.