Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Healing Power of Jane Austen

As Emma Thompson reveals the work of Jane Austen saved her from depression, romantic novelist JoJo Moyes examines the healing power of literature in the Telegraph.

From the story...

And it’s not just about escaping back to the 18th century, to a land of petticoats and Regency toffs in breeches. Austen, like Shakespeare, still resonates because she tells us modern truths: that decent people end up in impossible situations through no fault of their own. And that if they are good (Emma Woodhouse), honest (Lizzie Bennett), and true (Fanny Price) there is a good chance it will all come right in the end. (Interestingly Claire Tomalin, Austen’s biographer, suggests she too may have suffered deep depression, which may have helped her to write so humanely about the complexities of emotional life.)

From the Bible onwards, people have looked to books to tell us how to live through adversity. And for those of us born prior to the escapes of YouTube, instant messaging and alcopops, medication through fiction was a habit we learned early. Comic novelist Jenny Colgan estimates she has read Little Women “something like 9,000 times”. “I use Little Women as a security blanket if I’m feeling down. I know its moralising tone is highly unfashionable nowadays, but I find it totally comforting. Do the right thing, even when you don’t want to. Cut off your hair, and give away your Christmas breakfast; try and be the better person and all will be well. Or, if that doesn’t work, do exactly what Jo does and hide in a garret with a book and a bag of apples.”

Jane Austen can also heal whatever financial wounds you have. Particularly if you put a first edition on the auction block. Her Emma just made a boat load of money.

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