Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen


Fay Weldon

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Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen Study Guide

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Brief Biography of Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon was born in England and raised in New Zealand, returning to the U.K. at age ten and later attending college at St. Andrews in Scotland. After several years as a successful advertising copywriter, Weldon began writing full-time and published her first novel in 1967. She has written over 20 novels, most recently After the Peace, which was published in October 2018. Weldon has also written extensively for television, radio, and stage and published works of nonfiction. In 2001, she was appointed to the CBE, a British order of chivalry. Weldon is the mother of four children and currently lives in England with her third husband.
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Historical Context of Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

Letters to Alice takes place against the backdrop of the feminist movement in the 1980s, which existed in the tension between the civil rights gains of second-wave feminism and the coming focus on individuality and diversity in third-wave feminism, which began in earnest in the early 1990s. The struggles of both Fay and Alice to refine their identities as creative, empowered women drives the story. Additionally, Fay’s preoccupation with the value of reading over more modern forms of entertainment like television reflects the Western world’s growing focus on technological advancement at the possible expense of valuing literature and engaging in quiet contemplation.

Other Books Related to Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

Letters to Alice is closely related to all of Jane Austen’s works, in particular her early epistolary novel Lady Susan, which was not published during Austen’s lifetime. Lady Susan features a free-spirited, somewhat immoral protagonist unlike those featured in Austen’s published works. Weldon’s novel shares its form and some of its themes with both Lady Susan and the series of letters that Austen wrote to her young niece Anna. Like the fictional Alice in Letters to Alice, Anna was herself an aspiring novelist. Letters to Alice also follows in a long tradition of epistolary novels, from classics such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula to contemporary fiction such as Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Finally, Letters to Alice was one of many feminist novels published in the mid-1980s, perhaps the most notable of which is Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale.
Key Facts about Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen
  • Full Title: Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen
  • When Written: Early 1980s
  • Where Written: Unknown
  • When Published: 1984
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Epistolary Novel
  • Setting: Australia, Singapore, and England
  • Climax: Fay finds out that Alice has secured a publishing deal for her novel.
  • Antagonist: Enid and Edward, as well as social, cultural, and creative pressures on women and writers.
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

Courting Controversy. In 2017, Weldon controversially stated that feminism had succeeded to such a degree that women’s lives are now easier than men’s, saying of transgender women: “The only way men have of fighting back against the natural superiority of women is by becoming women themselves.” Weldon even went so far as to publish a follow-up book to her feminist bestseller The Death of a She-Devil in which the protagonist is a transgender man who seeks the power of being a woman.

As Seen on TV. Weldon wrote the pilot episode of the popular 1970s television series Upstairs Downstairs.