Although Jane Austen has long been England's best-loved novelist, much current criticism tends to ignore the appeal and accessibility of her novels and instead treats them as mere material--the preserve of academics, feminists, historical specialists, and would-be radical theorists. This book by Roger Gard is at once a thoughtful and detailed discussion of Jane Austen's oeuvre and a provocative and witty commentary that will stimulate all readers. Gard offers lively and perceptive discussions of the six major novels, together with the early Lady Susan and the unfinished Sanditon. The precise nature and scope of Jane Austen's realism, her particularly English approach to the world, and the characteristic blend in her work of a sharp skepticism about human nature and its banality with an idealism about human virtue are themes that recur throughout Gard's study. The book is moreover notable for the original and striking links it makes between Jane Austen and other authors ranging from Shakespeare to Flaubert, Lawrence, George Eliot, and Barbara Pym. Gard has something new to say in every chapter, and he says it with authority and style.