Book Review: The Real Jane Austen: A Life In Small Things

Cover of The Real Jane Austen, A Life in Small ThingsThe Real Jane Austen:  A Life In Small Things is a delightful, entertaining biography of Jane Austen that challenges the popular image of her as a provincial prude.  This is a relatively short book, packed with information, and so much fun to read due to the chatty tone and the organization of the book, which allows the author to focus on individual topics of interest rather than a strictly linear chain of events.

Here’s a few things I learned about Jane:

  • Jane travelled all throughout England, and somewhat into Wales.  She didn’t travel overseas because during most of her adult life England was at war with France and overseas travel was restricted.
  • She loved children, but seems to have been sufficiently concerned about the discomforts of pregnancy, the dangers of childbirth, and the time-consuming nature of mothering to genuinely not have wanted her own, even though she just as genuinely loved her godchildren, nieces, and nephews.
  • Jane was no country mouse.  She spent a great deal of time in London, which she enjoyed very much, and Bath, which was a large tourist center.
  • She liked the night life!  Jane attended many a ball, loved to dance, and loved the theater.  She had quite a few male followers.  She seems to have remained single out of choice rather than necessity.
  • Jane was well-known and greatly admired during her lifetime and although at first she said she wanted to be anonymous, she grew to enjoy being known.  During her life as after her death, her most popular novel was Pride and Prejudice.

This was the first biography of Jane I’ve read, and I felt it gave me good insight into her life and personality.  However, it’s not intended to take the place of a more linear biography, and there were areas in which I felt a little lost.  If you have a serious interest in the life of Jane Austen, I’d suggest you read this along with another, more conventional biography.  If you want just want some insight into Jane Austen, this book should work for you just fine on its own.  I found it to be a fast, fun, informative read.

Portrait of JAne Austen from the back

The only undisputed portrait of Jane Austen, rendered by her beloved older sister, Cassandra

 

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