Jane Austen: A Life Revealed
Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen.
Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed.
This book caught my eye for its clean, well styled cover and hooked me with its promise of a simple and concise biography of Jane Austen written for young adults. I love Jane Austen and am a huge fan of her novels, their movies, and their many spin offs. But, aside from what I knew from watching Becoming Jane, I didn’t know too much about the author herself. This book was the perfect toe in the pool and revealed Jane Austen in a way that was engaging and interesting and left me eager to re-read her novels again with this new information in mind.
Pride and Prejudice opens with one of the most famous sentences ever written: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” With these words, Jane Austen announced to her readers that they were about to meet such a man and the people eager to marry him off. What was more, they were going to have fun. The dark cynicism of Sense and Sensibility was largely gone, blown away by a clean, fresh wind.”
The biography begins with a summary of Jane’s younger years with her family, her earlier writing, and the many moves she was forced to make throughout her life being both poor and dependent as she was a single woman. It was fascinating reading about her extended relations and their exciting lives. Jane’s life, though, was not as exciting. She was left a constant observer on the sidelines. She was witty though and snippets of her letters showing her sharp, occasionally acerbic wit, are sprinkled throughout the narrative.
The book also has lots of historical background explaining the political and social rules of the day and there are plenty of illustrations both from the period and from Jane’s letters, books, and the movies made from her books throughout.
Finally, the biography takes us through each of Jane Austen’s works. It covers how each was published, the book’s history and reasons for being written, a summary of the book, and its reception in Jane Austen’s time. This re-awakened my interest in Austen’s novels all over again to get this very interesting history of each book, including works that were never finished or published.
The book was accessible and easy to read. The illustrations and explanations kept the events in Jane Austen’s life entertaining and understandable for someone who might only have a passing knowledge of the author and her era. The history of each of the books was the best part of the biography in my opinion and it was fascinating to read what Austen thought of her own books through her letters, and to read about their reception during her life time. I highly recommend this book for teen readers who have just been introduced to Austen, or older readers who aren’t big on biographies but would like an accessible primer to Jane Austen’s life. This is an easy, light read that can finished in only a few hours, but leaves a sparked interest in the author and in her works.
I received this book for free to review.