Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed 

Published by: Clarion Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published on: April 18, 2011
Page Count: 208
Genre: Juvenile Biography
My reading format: Advanced reading copy in Adobe Digital Editions from NetGalley
Available Formats: Hardcover

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is a readable, easy to understand report on Jane Austen's life during the late 18th century and early 19th century in England. It's geared toward younger readers who may or may not have had prior experience with Austen. The book provides context on the social norms, politics, customs and ways of life of those living in England during Austen's time, which is helpful both for one who has never read Austen and is unfamiliar with Georgian England, and also a good review for those of us who haven't considered these things in a while.

Of course this title caught my eye immediately, having recently visited the Jane Austen Center in Bath and listened to James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen, so I had to know what Reef's take is on things. Her biographical information is fairly familiar to me, so I was looking for something a little bit different. What I liked the most about Reef's version of Austen's life is that a sense of mystery can be found within the pages. Reef's book is not much different than other accounts of Austen's life in that no new information is ever really turned up. A limited number of the several thousand letters Austen wrote during her lifetime have survived (most were destroyed by her family members), so our view into her world and her personality is limited. We do know enough, Reef maintains, to have reason to believe that Austen had a certain amount of sass in her personality.

Reef's biography is full of good information on Austen for those who haven't read her novels before (generous summaries of each major work are included, which should help young readers decide which one to start with), and which should inspire a whole new generation of Janeites.   

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