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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Down Under Austen

Over in the opposite hemisphere of the globe, it seems, they’re reading a lot of Jane Austen. Or so we might conclude from a couple of items that crossed my transom recently:


* The prominent Australian politician Tanya Plibersek “has a special admiration for Elinor Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility,” according to a new biography by journalist Margaret Simons. I’d never heard of Plibersek before, but apparently she’s known for her Elinor-like steadiness, commitment to women’s issues, and kindness to staff. “Jane Austen’s prime minister?” asks the headline on a recent review of Simons' book.


A country could do worse. I’m an Elinor fan myself.


* A New Zealand writer and filmmaker named Juanita Deely--another Janeite I'd never heard of before--answered a few questions earlier this month. Asked what book she frequently rereads, she cited Pride and Prejudice.


“Every sentence is a pearl,” Deely said. “In fact I’ve been known to use the book for advice. Basically I pose my predicament as a question, open a random page, then read a sentence to receive Jane’s surprising, yet eerily relevant, advice.”


Some people prefer to do this with the Bible, of course, but hey: whatever works for you.

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