Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

I got this book and more or less set the other books aside to read this. I finished it today, and boy, was it worth it! I haven't read many biographies of Jane Austen, but this was a really excellent, if unconventional, biography.

The Real Jane Austen examines the life of Jane Austen through different items (for example, topaz crosses, a picture, etc). From that one item (for which there is a picture and a description), what kind of role that play in Jane Austen's life, the relevant background, and the influence on her books are explored.

To me, the main advantage of this method is that it makes it easier to understand the different aspects of Jane Austen's works that might not have been possible if it was constrained by time. You see, Jane Austen wrote her books over a fairly long period of time, and if we wanted to discuss her life in a linear fashion, then it's invariable that you can only discuss one book at a time. But if you want to look at one aspect (for example, the navy) in all her books, then you need to be able to jump back and forth between time freely - and what better than to use an object?

Of course, this means that this book is not going to give you a clear timeline of Jane Austen's life. I have this rough idea of how everything goes, but I can't definitely tell you "oh, she was proposed to at _____ and then _____ happened and then _____ happened". But since I'm more interested in the literary aspect, this isn't so much of a problem.

It's a fairly long book - three hundred over pages, but it's a very interesting read. I definitely recommend it for fans of Jane Austen.

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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