I just started reading a fantastic little book called a A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz.
The book has a bit of everything: it’s a history lesson in Jane Austen, and a memoir for the author; but mostly, it breaks Austen’s six novels down in such a way that one can take a unique life lesson from each.
The author kicks his book off with Emma (which is the first of Austen’s novels that he encounters, initially with disdain), and after some fussing and intellectual resistance, he finally has a break-through — and realizes what a work of genius Emma really is. From the subject matter itself, the simplicity of the language, to the size of the world these characters inhabit (“Though Emma was over four hundred pages long, its whole scale was little, like a crowded scene inscribed upon a miniature.”) and the arrangement of said characters (“It wasn’t the words that Austen used that created her effects, it was the way she used them, the way she grouped and balanced them. And so it was, I saw, with her characters.”), everything comes together to create a “humble package” that contains “momentous truths”.
One of which is (to paraphrase, probably inaccurately): Pay attention to the everyday. By that, the author means all those little things that happen to the people around you: what they say, what they do, all the little stories, even those as mundane as what to put on the grocery list. Be mindful. Be compassionate. Appreciate. Take nothing for granted. Because these are the things that make up the fabric of our lives, and they are precious.
A Jane Austen Education is highly recommended (especially if you’re not a fan of Austen — and if you are, this book will resonate, I hope).