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Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen

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Not only are Austen's novels still widely read, they continue to influence modern film and literature. In both their moral content and their focused, highly detailed, "miniaturist" execution, they reveal Austen's mastery of the art of fiction and her concern for Christian virtues exercised within communities. She entertains, edifies, and challenges men and women readers al Not only are Austen's novels still widely read, they continue to influence modern film and literature. In both their moral content and their focused, highly detailed, "miniaturist" execution, they reveal Austen's mastery of the art of fiction and her concern for Christian virtues exercised within communities. She entertains, edifies, and challenges men and women readers alike. From theological and literary angles, Leithart analyzes character and theme while summarizing each of Austen's major works: Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Including helpful review and thought questions for each section, this book is an excellent introduction to Austen for students and for all who desire a richer appreciation of her enduring genius.


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Not only are Austen's novels still widely read, they continue to influence modern film and literature. In both their moral content and their focused, highly detailed, "miniaturist" execution, they reveal Austen's mastery of the art of fiction and her concern for Christian virtues exercised within communities. She entertains, edifies, and challenges men and women readers al Not only are Austen's novels still widely read, they continue to influence modern film and literature. In both their moral content and their focused, highly detailed, "miniaturist" execution, they reveal Austen's mastery of the art of fiction and her concern for Christian virtues exercised within communities. She entertains, edifies, and challenges men and women readers alike. From theological and literary angles, Leithart analyzes character and theme while summarizing each of Austen's major works: Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Including helpful review and thought questions for each section, this book is an excellent introduction to Austen for students and for all who desire a richer appreciation of her enduring genius.

30 review for Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    This is another of Leithart's study guides, this one on Jane Austen. He deals with the novels "Pride and Prejudice", "Northanger Abbey", Sense and Sensibility", Masnfield Park", "Emma", and Persuasion". I found this book to be very helpful in examining what really goes on in Jane Austen's books. Complaints from many others who do not like Jane Austen -- nothing ever HAPPENS in her books, I don't like the restrictive and oppressive constraints on conversations, etc. Leithart answers each of these This is another of Leithart's study guides, this one on Jane Austen. He deals with the novels "Pride and Prejudice", "Northanger Abbey", Sense and Sensibility", Masnfield Park", "Emma", and Persuasion". I found this book to be very helpful in examining what really goes on in Jane Austen's books. Complaints from many others who do not like Jane Austen -- nothing ever HAPPENS in her books, I don't like the restrictive and oppressive constraints on conversations, etc. Leithart answers each of these with wonderful clarity. Jane Austen's books are "miniatures" of real life and real people. In real life, sometimes days and days and weeks go without exciting adventures or car chases or explosions. As such, Austen's books are studies of how real character development happens -- over time. How people grow up and learn -- over time. And how the core foundation of a person's life is reflected eventually in their decisions and how they live their lives. As such, the "morals" of the sections of life are made obvious as you learn and understand the people she writes about. I would recommend this book. One of my favorite chapters is "Real men read Austen"!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Kyriosity

    Anybody who can deepen my understanding and love of Jane gets full marks from me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Bok

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In Jane Austen's novels, Christianity is everywhere and nowhere at all, and this paradox has always intrigued me. Coming from a largely secular context as I do, I lack the ear to catch biblical echoes in her language or the eye to spot specifically Christian themes in her plots. So I was delighted to learn of Peter Leithart's book, wherein I hoped to find all the clues I was too blind to see. And I did find one or two, but overall this brief study of Austen's novels did not deliver what I imagin In Jane Austen's novels, Christianity is everywhere and nowhere at all, and this paradox has always intrigued me. Coming from a largely secular context as I do, I lack the ear to catch biblical echoes in her language or the eye to spot specifically Christian themes in her plots. So I was delighted to learn of Peter Leithart's book, wherein I hoped to find all the clues I was too blind to see. And I did find one or two, but overall this brief study of Austen's novels did not deliver what I imagined it would. Somewhere I read that this book was intended to serve as a reading guide for home-schoolers, and I imagine it would serve that function pretty well. It offers a decent first-reading analysis of Austen's six novels, summarizing the plots and teasing out some of the more obvious themes in straightforward analysis. It might well serve a high school student trolling for paper topics. But as a study of the ways Christianity is central to Austen's fiction this book fell very far short for me. Leithart labels some elements "Christian" that seem to me no more than garden-variety ethics, of a sort that any decently moral person regardless of faith might espouse, and in general he makes little attempt to connect the language or themes of the novels to the New Testament or to Christian beliefs. I like that he focuses on Austen's moral underpinnings for her novels, highlighting the characters' values and virtues or lack thereof--a useful corrective to the modern tendency to read her for the romance--but again there was little that I could identify as explicitly Christian. The scholarship behind this book is quite thin. Leithart cites a few critics over and over, but does not seem to have read widely in the realm of Austen studies. He also, more troublingly, appears not to have read all of Austen's works--not such a high bar as she was hardly prolific! Early in the book he mentions trying to read an Austenesque novel featuring Jane Austen as a sleuth (I'm guessing one of Stephanie Barron's admirable novels) and rejecting it out of hand because it opens with a carriage accident, something he considers completely alien to Jane Austen's literary universe. But anyone who has read either Sanditon or the juvenilia knows this not to be the case! There is also the occasional right-wing political snarl in this book, which I found both jarring and out of place. Speaking of Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey, he says, "The fact that Catherine uses language in this manner [indiscriminately] is a sign of her immaturity, of her need to learn to see properly. Inform the ACLU: words must be discriminatory, applying to some things and not to others." What a non sequitur! Not to mention a conflation of "discriminating" and "discriminatory," which are two different animals. I can't entirely condemn this book for not being what its title led me to expect, but for most serious fans of Jane Austen it has little to offer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    As I reread all of Jane Austen’s major novels this year, Peter Leithart’s book was a welcome companion. It was good to be accompanied by someone as enthusiastic about Jane Austen as me. “If I had the opportunity to have dinner with a dozen of the greatest British and American writers, I would want the seat next to Jane Austen.” He’d have to fight me for it. Leithart explains the themes of each novel from a Christian’s perspective. Like that fellow from Ethiopia, I welcome a guide who can help me As I reread all of Jane Austen’s major novels this year, Peter Leithart’s book was a welcome companion. It was good to be accompanied by someone as enthusiastic about Jane Austen as me. “If I had the opportunity to have dinner with a dozen of the greatest British and American writers, I would want the seat next to Jane Austen.” He’d have to fight me for it. Leithart explains the themes of each novel from a Christian’s perspective. Like that fellow from Ethiopia, I welcome a guide who can help me understand what I read. His words provided me greater insight and a deeper understanding of Austen’s world and message.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Danette

    I recently finished reading the Austen novels and this book will definitely be handy when I re-read them. 2020 A book about art or an artist #covidreader

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keely

    I really enjoyed this insightful look into Austen’s major works. He made me appreciate the genius of her writing even more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    You would definitely have to have read all six of Austens novels to fully understand and appreciate this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Coral Rose

    Peter Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals: the Christian novels of Jane Austen was a fairly easy read for such an academic sort of text. My favorite Jane Austen novels are the ones where the lovers improve one another, instead of one doing all the teaching and the other doing all the learning. For example, I’m not as fond of Mr. Knightley’s shaping Emma into someone he can marry, or Fanny Price waiting for Edmund to get his stuff together and stop mooning over the terror Mary. I think that Henry Til Peter Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals: the Christian novels of Jane Austen was a fairly easy read for such an academic sort of text. My favorite Jane Austen novels are the ones where the lovers improve one another, instead of one doing all the teaching and the other doing all the learning. For example, I’m not as fond of Mr. Knightley’s shaping Emma into someone he can marry, or Fanny Price waiting for Edmund to get his stuff together and stop mooning over the terror Mary. I think that Henry Tilney’s patient wading through Catherine’s drama is admirable, but…none of these upstanding citizens seem to have real flaws of their own to work out. I feel like Eleanor is a halfway character in this regard. Obviously, she makes mistakes, believes her sister to be engaged when she is not, misjudges people…but her dumbcluck Edward Ferrars doesn’t do much more than Hugh Grant does in the movie – look rather effeminate and pussy-foot around confronting his own idiocy. See, what I love are Elizabeth and Darcy and Anne and Wentworth (so maybe I’m a sucker for surnames, sue me) who both make mistakes, who both fail, who both are forgiven and redeemed. Marriage is not a savior scenario. My spouse will not swoop down and deliver me from my follies. We will both have follies that most likely will cause both of us trouble and heartache and that will have to patiently be worked out and forgiven, once again, by both of us. Feel free to disagree, but that’s how I feel. ***** I really enjoyed Leithart’s read of the novels. I thought he was clever, interesting and engaging, while being academically sound. This is a good overview of all the novels, with interesting tidbits and solid questions for either discussion or just everyday pondering. I highly recommend. (Plus, anyone who saves Persuasion for last and describes Anne and Wentworth’s love story as the indomitable love of a woman for a man, a love which anchors him, has my vote, for sure.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Wonderful book that gives commentary and study guides for all of Jane Austen's novels. From a Christian worldview, but not heavy-handed. Wonderful book that gives commentary and study guides for all of Jane Austen's novels. From a Christian worldview, but not heavy-handed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Saphraneet

    This book brought clarity to her stories, her characters, and Jane Austen herself. Now I want to read all her books again!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Really good.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Coller

    Wow, I was not impressed with this author at. all. I originally chose the book, despite it's being a little bit "textbooky" because I was intrigued to see what the author had to say on the question of Jane Austen's true personal faith. You see, I just finished reading Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley --- a fictional story in a biographical style that imagines the character of Jane as being much harsher than she is usually made out to be by real biographers. The author insinuates that Jane's Wow, I was not impressed with this author at. all. I originally chose the book, despite it's being a little bit "textbooky" because I was intrigued to see what the author had to say on the question of Jane Austen's true personal faith. You see, I just finished reading Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley --- a fictional story in a biographical style that imagines the character of Jane as being much harsher than she is usually made out to be by real biographers. The author insinuates that Jane's faith was not genuine but was, instead, put on for the sake of the times and her family's situation. Other writers who have tried to make her out to be the ultimate Feminist have suggested the same. I would find it very refreshing to be assured that my favorite can be cynical, silly, sarcastic, and an authentic believer all at the same time---much as I am, myself! From tiny irritations like claiming Austen's was the world of "hoop skirts" (out of fashion decades earlier unless you were visiting the Royals) to really sweeping generalizations (detailed below), I was immediately turned off by the author's lack of education. Big words does not a scholar make. Leithart makes grand and arguable generalizations and assumptions about characters and plots, as well as the character of Austen herself, that I very much disagree with. A little thing is I think he's got the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth wrong---they both struggled with pride and prejudice, but I see Lizzie being the more prideful one and Darcy being the more prejudiced. A big thing is his view on what it means to be an effeminate male in the Austen era. He says Edward Ferrars is "more than a little effeminate" because he is "painfully silent". WHAT?? And Tilney, as well, because he knows so much about fabrics? Does this man not realize who were the primary sellers of fabrics, designers of clothing, and clothiers of the day? MEN! He was also way off on his understanding of the characters of Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and especially Willoughby's motives. The annoyances just go on and on ad nauseam to conclude with---no conclusion! Literally, the book just stops. Please don't waste your time. A knowledgeable Janeite will be perturbed and a new one will be misled.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    While I haven't yet dived as deeply into the world of Jane Austen as I have Shakespeare, this is (at least so far) my favorite book analyzing her works. Leithart is insightful and a has a clear respect for the subject matter, and his writing is clear, direct, and enjoyable. He examines all six of her major novels, making this a fitting companion to his (also excellent) biography on Austen's life. Highly recommended for all lovers of Austen as well as any students and teachers who are studying or While I haven't yet dived as deeply into the world of Jane Austen as I have Shakespeare, this is (at least so far) my favorite book analyzing her works. Leithart is insightful and a has a clear respect for the subject matter, and his writing is clear, direct, and enjoyable. He examines all six of her major novels, making this a fitting companion to his (also excellent) biography on Austen's life. Highly recommended for all lovers of Austen as well as any students and teachers who are studying or teaching her works.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andy Dollahite

    I read this piecemeal as I worked through each novel. Leithart obviously admires Austen’s talents as a Christian novelist and social commentator. He allows each of the many diamond facets in Austen’s body of work to brilliantly shine. He’s eminently readable even when drawing out multilayered arguments. There’s also a modest inclusion of supplemental literary criticism he weaves into his own gloss.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey Kramer

    I love this book. Whenever I read it, I feel like I am getting the chance to join a fascinating discussion about the works of Jane Austen.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tirzah Eleora

    RTC

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Murphy

    Not quite ready to read all of Jane Austin yet, but a very good set of insights and explanations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Candice

    This is a wonderful companion to Austen's major works! This is a wonderful companion to Austen's major works!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This book discusses the Christian themes in Jane Austen's novels. Each novel has questions on the author's presentation, as well as thought questions on the novel. If you love Jane Austen, you will enjoy this analysis of her books. There is an extended bibliography at the back as well. This book discusses the Christian themes in Jane Austen's novels. Each novel has questions on the author's presentation, as well as thought questions on the novel. If you love Jane Austen, you will enjoy this analysis of her books. There is an extended bibliography at the back as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn

    Not my favorite commentary on Jane Austen's novels. First of all, the author's tone was annoyingly high-and-mighty. The first few pages were almost enough for me to put the book down. It is not necessary to belittle Dickens and Shakespeare and other great authors in order to elevate Jane Austen. Leithart makes some good and interesting points throughout his book, but they are rather few and far between. I had to wade through summary after summary (let's be real here, the majority of people readi Not my favorite commentary on Jane Austen's novels. First of all, the author's tone was annoyingly high-and-mighty. The first few pages were almost enough for me to put the book down. It is not necessary to belittle Dickens and Shakespeare and other great authors in order to elevate Jane Austen. Leithart makes some good and interesting points throughout his book, but they are rather few and far between. I had to wade through summary after summary (let's be real here, the majority of people reading this book have already read Austen's novels) as well as many points I did not agree with at all. I thought the author was excessively harsh with many characters. He also read many intentions of the characters differently than I had in the novels. He calls Emma Woodhouse outright dishonest. I definitely would say that she does not stop to evaluate if her point-of-view accurately encompasses the situation and the feelings of others around her, but I would never call her dishonest. Another example; he says that when Willoughby spurns Marianne in London it is because he has a secret he wants to keep from them (his engagement). I would say it was more because he was too cowardly and also perhaps heartbroken to end it like a man; not that he was trying to keep anything under wraps. (The chapter on Sense and Sensibility was my least favorite...) These may seem like little things, but when the book's purpose is to evaluate the characters and how they grow, and what lessons these stories can teach us, I think it's pretty important to get the characters' intentions correct. Now who's to say whose interpretation is correct....I don't know. I just know I didn't care for Leithart's. I should probably give it two stars, but there were a few redeeming ideas sprinkled about. If you like these kinds of books, though, I would suggest my very favorite commentary on Austen's novels: Jane Austen's Philosophy of the Virtues by Sarah Emsley. Unfortunately a very expensive book, but I highly recommend ordering it on Inter-Library-Loan if you can.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hope

    Austen’s books have sadly been relegated to the modern abyss of “chick lit”. In his book, Miniatures and Morals, Peter Liethart contends that Austen’s novels function on many other levels. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by his subtitle, “The Christian novels of Jane Austen.” Obviously her books are “moral” in the sense that the heroes and heroines are rewarded for gallantry and the scoundrels punished for their misdeeds. But are the novels “Christian” in the sense that they present truths deri Austen’s books have sadly been relegated to the modern abyss of “chick lit”. In his book, Miniatures and Morals, Peter Liethart contends that Austen’s novels function on many other levels. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by his subtitle, “The Christian novels of Jane Austen.” Obviously her books are “moral” in the sense that the heroes and heroines are rewarded for gallantry and the scoundrels punished for their misdeeds. But are the novels “Christian” in the sense that they present truths derived from New Testament teachings? Leithart makes a strong case for his premise. This may be a bit didactic for the average reader and it presupposes familiarity with all six novels, BUT if you like literature because it gives you a deeper understanding into what it means to be human, you will appreciate this fine book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    PJ Wenzel

    Easily one of the top 5 books I have read this year. Leithart shows us Austen with clarity and insight. You know a book has had an impact when everything you hear from people throughout the day reminds you of what you just read. I was (literally) underlining every page and just had to stop because I realized the entire thing would be underlined before long! I think that perhaps the book felt slightly repetitious from time to time, but I'm unsure how Leithart could have avoided it given how simil Easily one of the top 5 books I have read this year. Leithart shows us Austen with clarity and insight. You know a book has had an impact when everything you hear from people throughout the day reminds you of what you just read. I was (literally) underlining every page and just had to stop because I realized the entire thing would be underlined before long! I think that perhaps the book felt slightly repetitious from time to time, but I'm unsure how Leithart could have avoided it given how similar Austen's themes can be from novel to novel. Furthermore, I give the author credit because I think he had a self-awareness about some of the repetition in the themes Austen covered, and was working to keep the topics interesting and poignant without seeming to beat the dead horse. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys Austen - especially any Christian who enjoys Austen!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Beth Anne

    Fantastic study of Jane Austin's novels. Leithart unpacks each book in it's own chapter, pulling out the Christian implications of Austin's writing. His analysis is excellent and exciting. He shows why Jane Austin's books are loved by so many...it's not that they are just great romances (because, in fact, they are most very similar), her books give us a picture of how we should be speaking, interacting with others, loving, and living. Chapter 1: real men read Austin. Not because their wives want Fantastic study of Jane Austin's novels. Leithart unpacks each book in it's own chapter, pulling out the Christian implications of Austin's writing. His analysis is excellent and exciting. He shows why Jane Austin's books are loved by so many...it's not that they are just great romances (because, in fact, they are most very similar), her books give us a picture of how we should be speaking, interacting with others, loving, and living. Chapter 1: real men read Austin. Not because their wives want them to read her (and be like Mr Darcy). "The mere fact that her novels give men an opportunity to see romance through the eyes of an uncommonly perceptive woman should be enough to recommend them." p. 19

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily Tsesmeloglou

    A few years ago, the ladies at church started a book club and read all the Jane Austen novels. I wasn't able to attend the book club during that time for the most part, but I started listening to all of her novels (except Pride and Prejudice, which I read). At first I found her novels uninteresting and difficult to get through, so my reading was more for the sake of study than enjoyment. But with each novel, I increasingly enjoyed and appreciated her style. This book by Peter Leithart made me lo A few years ago, the ladies at church started a book club and read all the Jane Austen novels. I wasn't able to attend the book club during that time for the most part, but I started listening to all of her novels (except Pride and Prejudice, which I read). At first I found her novels uninteresting and difficult to get through, so my reading was more for the sake of study than enjoyment. But with each novel, I increasingly enjoyed and appreciated her style. This book by Peter Leithart made me love her novels even more. It helped me wrap up some of the themes found in her novels and see things a little differently than I did initially. I will definitely include most or all of her novels in my homeschool and agree with him that "real men read Austen."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    Miniatures and Morals should not be confused for a pleasure read, this is a study guide for six of Jane Austen's books: Pride and Prejudice Northanger Abbey Sense and Sensibility Mansfield Park Emma Persuasion Leithart does a great job of explaining Austen's writing from a Christian perspective, a perspective very familiar to Austen whose father was a preacher. At the end of each book covered is a section of "Review Questions," and "Thought Questions." The one drawback is that Leithart does not supply t Miniatures and Morals should not be confused for a pleasure read, this is a study guide for six of Jane Austen's books: Pride and Prejudice Northanger Abbey Sense and Sensibility Mansfield Park Emma Persuasion Leithart does a great job of explaining Austen's writing from a Christian perspective, a perspective very familiar to Austen whose father was a preacher. At the end of each book covered is a section of "Review Questions," and "Thought Questions." The one drawback is that Leithart does not supply the answers. Leithart also includes a chapter on Jane Austen being suitable reading for men. If you are interested in really delving into Jane Austen's writing as a scholarly venture merely than for purely pleasure, you will appreciate this helpful book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natalie S.

    If you love Austen you must read this book. It's available free on Google books, so you haven't any excuse. I'm a long standing Austen fan and reading this book is like sitting down with a favorite professor. The conversation is gently illuminating, easy to understand, and a perfect springboard for one's own reflections. Dr. Leithart's appreciation for these novels is apparent and refreshing. When reading academic works on literature one often loses the sense of pleasure and discovery one gets f If you love Austen you must read this book. It's available free on Google books, so you haven't any excuse. I'm a long standing Austen fan and reading this book is like sitting down with a favorite professor. The conversation is gently illuminating, easy to understand, and a perfect springboard for one's own reflections. Dr. Leithart's appreciation for these novels is apparent and refreshing. When reading academic works on literature one often loses the sense of pleasure and discovery one gets from reading and reflecting on a thoroughly good book. Reading Leithart is the literary equivalent of taking your class outside to hunt for bugs - it's real and interesting and engaging.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Leila Bowers

    This is not a complex 'lit theory' type book, but it is very accessible and insightful, and I certainly learned new things about Austen. She is not overtly Christian, as Leithart makes clear in the beginning, but he does an excellent job drawing out key themes like Manners, Charity, and that for Austen good relationships are always founded on 'speaking the truth in love.' I especially liked his chapter on Sense and Sensibility and argument that Elinor has the truest sensibility in the novel. Ov This is not a complex 'lit theory' type book, but it is very accessible and insightful, and I certainly learned new things about Austen. She is not overtly Christian, as Leithart makes clear in the beginning, but he does an excellent job drawing out key themes like Manners, Charity, and that for Austen good relationships are always founded on 'speaking the truth in love.' I especially liked his chapter on Sense and Sensibility and argument that Elinor has the truest sensibility in the novel. Overall an easy, enjoyable read!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    "Austen......is a miniaturist in style, in that she does more with less than any other writer in English. There is a precision and lack of ornamentation in her prose that I suspect owes much to the Bible and the Prayer Book....This makes her simply the best prose stylist and one of the most innovative in English literature." .....page 20 "Austen......is a miniaturist in style, in that she does more with less than any other writer in English. There is a precision and lack of ornamentation in her prose that I suspect owes much to the Bible and the Prayer Book....This makes her simply the best prose stylist and one of the most innovative in English literature." .....page 20

  29. 4 out of 5

    George

    Well, technically I haven't finished the book. But I have finished the chapters covering the Austen novels I have read. Looking forward to finishing this fine book after I read the remaining Austen novels. As much as i like them, I have to intersperse Austen books with measures of Das Boot and such so I don't start sacheting around. Well, technically I haven't finished the book. But I have finished the chapters covering the Austen novels I have read. Looking forward to finishing this fine book after I read the remaining Austen novels. As much as i like them, I have to intersperse Austen books with measures of Das Boot and such so I don't start sacheting around.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jlnpeacock Peacock

    I loved the manner in which the Austen novels were explained so that I understood the depth of her wisdom and saw the beauty of Christianity more fully in her works. The writing style is very engaging so that it is quite easy to read.

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