I stumbled across Fay Weldon in researching the 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. Weldon wrote the screenplay for the adaptation so I had high expectations for her book, Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen. I was expecting something witty, eloquent, and thoughtful. And I got that. However, I felt that the book was an interesting exposition on the importance and relevance of literature and writing (in epistolary format) with some Jane Austen thrown in the subplot mix (not what I expected). I expected more on Austen.
The first chapter on the City of Invention was thought provoking and elegantly stated (read the book, if only for this chapter). In her effort to weave in the subplot of her nieces book, I think that Weldon falls short of really selling her niece (and me) on Austen. I expected to read more of Weldons analysis of Austens works and less of the guidance on the nieces book. On the other hand, Weldons passion for books really comes through in the letters. She sold me on the merits of reading and writing great literature. I will be picking up some of the other authors that she recommended.
* If you are a lover of literature or a writer (especially an aspiring writer), you will enjoy reading this book. If you are specifically looking to dip your toes into Austens work and related topics, Id recommend looking elsewhere. Perhaps Natalie Tyler's book, The Friendly Jane Austen: A Well-Mannered Introduction to a Lady of Sense and Sensibility. BTW - Weldon is interviewed and referenced in Tyler's work. If you are interested in another epistolary book by a passionate reader/writer, Id recommend 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
Ellen H. (eeeee) reviewed Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen on
A family friend gave this to me when I was a Jane Austen-mad teenager. Ever since, I've been scouting for other young Austen fans to give it to. Weldon writes a series of fictitious letters about not just appreciating Austen, but good fiction in general. At times the book is a bit much, but it also conveys a real love of fine writing and of the classics. It's a more cerebral appreciation of such works than Fforde's Thursday Next series, but still very enjoyable.