Ten questions on Jane Austen | Books | The Guardian
Friday 18 May 2012 17.45 EDT
Jane Austen’s admirer Virginia Woolf said that “of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness”. It is a brilliant insight. The apparent modesty of Austen’s dramas is only apparent; the minuteness of design is a bravura achievement. But it cannot be shown by some grand scene or speech. Accuracy is her genius. Noticing minutiae will lead you to the wonderful interconnectedness of her novels, where a small detail of wording or motivation in one place will flare with the recollection of something that happened much earlier. This is one of the reasons they bear such rereading. Every quirk you notice leads you to a design. If you ask very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, you reveal their cleverness. The closer you look, the more you see. Try these 10 questions.