Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letters to Alice - Fay Weldon

In this reply by an important writer to her niece's complaint that Jane Austen is boring and irrelevant, Alice is instructed on the difference between Literature and Just Books and the arts of reading and writing.

A friend - thank you Dee - once sent me this book after a conversation about Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She mentioned it as a sort of introduction to Jane Austen and her world. Last month I finally decided to pick it up.

The book is comprised of a number of letters that an aunt, who happens to be a published writer, sends to her niece, who is doing an English major at the University but doesn't want to read Jane Austen. So the letters starts by addressing Austen, her world, beliefs and social rules and then goes on to expand on the subject of being a writer. From what I found both characters are fictional (although Fay Weldon is indeed a successful published author) but the book is very much a work of nonfiction.

I did like her comments about Jane Austen very much. If we understand the time frame in which her stories were written it is a lot easier to understand what she meant with certain scenes, dialogues or behaviours. Weldon gives us just a glimpse of that but what she gives is enough to understand that society.

She also gives her opinions and advice on what is literature, and what is not; how does an author work and why and what's the relationship with the readers. Although I found this part of the book interesting material to think about I have to admit that my favourite parts were the ones related with Austen and her body of work. Anyone who has read and enjoyed Austen will probably like to read those letters too.

Grade: 4/5


  1. Thanks for the review. This book has been on my mental TBR list for years. It is out of print (the last time I checked) and I must dig for it from the library. I loved Fay Weldon's screenplay for the 1980 Pride and Prejudice. I am glad to hear you like it.

  2. You're welcome. I haven't watched that P&P yet but it's on my TBS list...


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