Jane on the Brain

Written by Wendy Jones
Review by Kristen McDermott

It’s hard to imagine a more apt subject for an English major turned psychotherapist with an interest in empathy and relationships than the novels of Jane Austen. Jones has created an absorbing study of the ways our most beloved characters teach us about human interactions and social settings, using the disciplines of both literary analysis and neuropsychological science. This is a hefty volume and not for the casual reader, but it also offers an accessible introduction to the science of mind and the history of behavioral psychology, written in a warm, engaging, personal style. The text is accompanied by charming black-and-white sketches, rendering complex scientific structures of the brain and cognitive systems into simple, Austen-themed graphics. Jones moves seamlessly from neuroscience to a comprehensive overview of the history of psychotherapy in the second half of the book. Although this is not meant to be a self-help guide, it certainly offers valuable Austenian examples of compassion, resilience, tolerance, and kindness, eminently worthy of emulation by the attentive reader.