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Becoming Jane Austen : a life
Spence, Jon.
Adult Nonfiction PR4036 .S65 2007

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From Library Journal:

Were she alive today, Jane Austen would be astonished to see that she is now more popular than she was during and after the years she wrote her great novels. Recently, film and television adaptations of Emma, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility have sparked an Austen revival, encouraging a new generation of readers to lose themselves in her bitingly humorous and satirical novels of manners and morals, marriage and money, class, and religion. In his revealing biography, Spence (English, Doshisha Univ., Kyoto, Japan) examines Austen's development as a novelist. Drawing on journals and letters, he considers the impact that her personal experiences had on her work and the influence of those who knew her well, especially her flirtatious cousin and a young Irish lawyer whom she hoped to marry. Spence argues that Austen's juvenilia (especially the stories "Love and Friendship" and "Lesley Castle") reflect her cautionary assessments regarding the dangers of a young man's intimate involvement with an older, married woman, as well as her biting satire on the wiles of a flirtatious woman. Although this psychological biography has interesting moments, Spence commits the cardinal sin among Austenphiles of pointing to connections between the fictional characters and the real-life people-a connection that Austen herself virulently denied. Still, libraries with large Austen collections will want to own this work because of its unique focus. Ross's companion provides a helpful map to the politics, architecture, publishing, fashion, and culinary arts of Austen's novels. In brief and humorous essays, Ross (The Monarchy in Britain) tries to make Austen's world more familiar to modern readers by answering such questions as "What was hartshorn?" and "How did Lizzy Bennet `let down' her gown to hide her muddy petticoats?" Ross examines Austen's "common daily routine" at Steventon, the Hampshire village where she spent much of her life, observing that Jane would have had the benefit of a "wholesome, home-produced diet, with fresh milk from her mother's Alderney cows, pork products from the family pigs, and plentiful local fruit and vegetables." These staples provide some helpful indications of the ingredients of the "white soup" that Mr. Bingley promises to his guests in Pride and Prejudice. In the tradition of John Sutherland's Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?: More Puzzles in Classic Fiction, Ross's little handbook offers an extremely useful guide to the world Austen inhabited and that she imported into her novels. For all libraries.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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