If you could be swept back in time two hundred years ago to have a cup of tea with Jane Austen, what would you ask her? Any question. No bars held. If...moreIf you could be swept back in time two hundred years ago to have a cup of tea with Jane Austen, what would you ask her? Any question. No bars held. If I had the courage, I might ask her how did she become so wise in the ways of human nature and love? Or, did she intend to craft stories to entertain, or to enlighten?
Since time-travel has yet to be invented, we can only surmise how Austen would have replied. Yet, for centuries she has been speaking to readers in an intimate way without many of us realizing it. In The Jane Austen Guide to Life, author Lori Smith decodes Austen’s philosophy on life and love by combing through her novels and personal correspondence for lessons relevant for the modern woman. Is Jane Austen the relationship coach that we should all be learning from? Smith thinks so and has carefully selected key topics that we can contemplate and learn from such as: Living Your Dreams; Pursuing Passion; Marrying Well; Cherishing Family and Friends; Enduring the Hardest Things; and the final chapter Austen’s Ethos. You might say this is a self-help book applying the principals and morals that Austen used in writing her fictional characters translated into the nonfiction world. In the introduction, Smith sums it up very nicely…
“This book mines Jane’s life and her stories for the lessons she would teach us if she could. Thankfully, through her writing, she can and does speak today.” p. xi
I never feel more like Lydia Bennet when someone recommends a self-help book to me. Remember in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins reads from Fordyce’s Sermons and she gaped in horror? I can totally relate. I deplore being preached to and am quite the skeptic. Even though I opened this book with grave trepidation, I was soon won over by the author’s knowledge of Jane Austen and her upbeat, approachable style. Each chapter is well researched offering topics and examples from the novels that modern readers can relate to. My favorite chapter was the last: Austen’s Ethos.
“As I’ve written about Austen, several themes continue to come back to me. They’ve surfaced throughout the book, but, at the risk of redundancy, may bear repeating, because in so many ways I think they capture her heart. They were lessons her heroines knew, or came to know through the course of the stories, and may in fact be the central, overarching lessons that she would want to pass on to us today. They’re also lessons that, because of two centuries that separate us from Austen, we may be less likely to take away from her light stories.” p. 197
I will leave you dangling in suspense with that tempting nugget of knowledge yet to be revealed. After reading The Jane Austen Guide to Life I understand more fully why I have been so attracted to Austen’s writing since first reading Pride and Prejudice over thirty years ago. I had the privilege of reading an early advance copy and wholeheartedly can attest that this engaging book, part biography and part self-help guide, it is all heart. Janeites will embrace its common sense and insights into their favorite author, and everyone else should buy it for their daughters and best friends.
Every wonder what books Jane Austen read, who her relations were, where she lived and traveled, or what were her pet peeves? Well, what true Janeite d...moreEvery wonder what books Jane Austen read, who her relations were, where she lived and traveled, or what were her pet peeves? Well, what true Janeite doesn’t? Do you want to learn more about your favorite author than you ever expected to discover all packed up and neatly arrange in one tidy volume? Then read on…
The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen is a delightful little fact book on the famous author and her world that was a welcome diversion from the drama and angst of the current Austenesque fiction book that I am entrenched in. Packed full of information compiled in list format, even this die-hard Janeite learned more than a few new tidbits about Austen’s novels, characters, family, Regency culture and her life.
This beautifully designed reference book would be the perfect primer and or fact checker for a Jane Austen quiz. Broken down into categories like:
Forward: (including ten reasons for reading this book!) Her Life: (including what she looked like, books she read, who she met on her travels and much more) Her Correspondence: (great selected quotes) Timeline for Jane Austen: (featuring events from every year of her life) Her Writing: (from her juvenilia to her novels to her last poem) Bonus List: Jane’s Royal Ancestors: (who knew?) Bibliography: (exclusive and the best)
What a powerful wallop this tidy little volume delivers. All this information now together in one place? It is a researcher, fact-checker, game-player, and all-around Janeite’s dream! Strasbaugh has done a thorough job researching, compiling and arranging information in a friendly and intuitive way. My only quibbles, and they are minor ones, is in the book design and format. I wish that they had placed the name of the chapter at the top of the left hand page so that the reader could search and locate categories within the book more easily. Sadly, it also lacks a general index. Please, even though this is a book of lists, all nonfiction books need an index. And NO eBook format? Really? How am I to cite all the balls and dances she attended when questioned on the run?
I am delighted to highly recommend this perky gem of a Jane Austen resource book to readers who seek facts and entertainment.
Informative, impertinent and indispensable - a fun how-to book for any unaccomplished young lady
Filled with pertinent facts that every Regency Miss sh...moreInformative, impertinent and indispensable - a fun how-to book for any unaccomplished young lady
Filled with pertinent facts that every Regency Miss should be aware of to become truly accomplished, it is easy for us to recommend this great little how-to book to our readers because we have used it personally over the past four years whenever we had a question regarding deportment, dancing, playing an instrument, frock shopping and making love (in the Regency context mind you) – the top five most critical social aspects to any young Regency ladies life. One can also throw in letter writing, entertaining house guests and managing a household and just about anything else our dear Austen heroines Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse or Anne Elliot already know that might qualify them as a truly accomplished young lady in Mr. Darcy’s eyes. We shall not add Catherine Morland and Fanny Price into the mix. They are exceptions to the rule and shall be forgiven their lack of education, and might well benefit from this slim volume.
Besides being wise, this volume is also very witty, and that is where we take full enjoyment of its tongue-in-cheek manner. Who would not want to know how to choose a prospective husband (What? They do not choose us? Is that not the unspoken belief among all beaux?), how to decline an unwanted marriage proposal (Lizzy Bennet might offer some advice to Fanny Price on this too!), carry off a secret engagement (Lucy Steele and Jane Fairfax would benefit from modern Prozac no doubt), or elope to Gretna Green (Lydia Bennet FAIL). There are also other tidbits that really made us laugh too. Each page turn brought more delightful and humorous illustrations by Kathryn Rathke and informative vignettes of examples from Jane Austen’s novels like: Who Died and Made Mr. Collins the Heir of Longbourn? or the Worst (and Funniest) Proposals in Jane Austen’s Novels. *snort*
Informative, impertinent and indispensable, The Jane Austen Handbook is a must have for anyone eager to understand anything from the obvious to the nuanced differences of society in Regency England. Lest we think this frivolous fare, it also contains a brief, but well-written bio of Jane Austen, summaries of the major novels and minor works, a glossary, a list of modern film adaptions through 2007, resources online: websites and blogs (we are forgotten, *sniff*), Austen societies, Austen places to visit, libraries and archives, and a select bibliography. Lastly, we know that Mary Bennet would happily offer her pedantic stamp of approval of this volume because it contains a full index for ease of access to Janeites on the fast track to becoming truly accomplished.
This slim volume is brimming with historical information on the creation and evolution of the popular Pleasure Gardens in England....moreA great introduction
This slim volume is brimming with historical information on the creation and evolution of the popular Pleasure Gardens in England. Originally designed as a diversion for the rich, Pleasure Gardens such as Vauxhall Garden in London and Sydney Gardens in Bath not only featured beautifully landscaped walks and vistas, but halls for music and dancing. Given the size limitations of this book, it is a nice introduction to a topic that will appeal to historical fiction readers and history students. My one disappointment is that the lovely vintage images are not credited. Otherwise, the author’s research is impressive, taking the reader back to a time when the social scene meant putting on your best frock and leaving the house instead of poking your friends on Facebook.
During her prolific fifty-three year writing career, British author Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) wrote fifty-six historical romance and detective ficti...moreDuring her prolific fifty-three year writing career, British author Georgette Heyer (1902-1974) wrote fifty-six historical romance and detective fiction novels. She was a pioneer in Regency romance, and is generally attributed by many for establishing the sub genre that is flourishing today. Stylish, witty and historically accurate, her humorous plots and memorable characters serve as the benchmark for new Regency romance writers.
In her lifetime Heyer publisher twenty-six Regency-era novels, many of which are again available in new editions by Sourcebooks and Harlequin Books. Renowned for her historical detail, to read a Heyer Regency romance is to be truly entrenched in the bon ton lifestyle in England from 1811 to 1820. Even though readers can enjoy her novels without understanding the entire historical context or nuanced meanings behind social customs and colloquialisms of the time, it is even more entertaining if you do. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World: The definitive guide to the people, places and society in Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, by Jennifer Kloester offers an incredible resource for Jane Austen fans, Georgette Heyer enthusiasts and Regency-era novelists. Here you will find detailed cultural information on the aristocrats and gentry that populate her drawing room comedies. Learn the importance of social strata and the right connections, where to live in Town and the country, how to dress, eat and conduct yourself properly in polite society, where to shop for a fashionable frock, what type of carriage to tool down St. James Street in, which pleasure haunts to frequent in London, and, most importantly, who to be seen with and who to avoid socially. Also included are appendixes on de rigueur Regency era cant and common phrases that Heyer’s characters frequently use, a very helpful historical timeline and other pertinent information.
What elevates this book beyond a collection of historical facts is its organization and that the author places many of Heyer’s novels and characters in context to the categories and descriptions within the text. For example, Hero the young and naïve bride in Friday's Child soon learns the importance of proper language when she asks her husband Lord Sheringham about his ‘opera dancer’ and is quickly informed on the ways of the world by a brotherly friend. Unbeknownst to Hero who had received a negligent upbringing, young ladies vocabulary was strictly regulated and a slip such as asking her husband about his mistress could ruin her reputation if the conversation had been overheard outside the family. If you do not know what an ‘opera dancer’ is or their reputation for becoming the mistresses of the bon ton, then you missed an important aspect of Hero’s personality and Lord Sheringham’s position in society. The book is full of similarly helpful insights and I found myself learning more about Regency culture and developing a greater appreciation for Georgette Heyer’s skill as a writer as the book progressed. What a treasure!
Originally published in the UK in 2005 and reissued in 2008 by Arrow Books (Random House UK), Georgette Heyer’s Regency World is an import and not readily available in North American bookstores. I purchased my edition from Paperbackshop-US via Advanced Book Exchange, but I was happy to discover that Sourcebooks will be printing a new edition that will be available this August. Gentle Readers, since Sourcebooks is re-issuing it, we know it is more than worthy and the definitive guide to all things in Heyer’s world.
A little glistening jewel of information on British fashion during the Georgian and Regency periods
“Revolution had changed the world and fashion had d...moreA little glistening jewel of information on British fashion during the Georgian and Regency periods
“Revolution had changed the world and fashion had dressed it accordingly.” Sarah Jane Downing
It is hard for me not to think of a Jane Austen movie adaptation and not remember how fashion influenced my enjoyment of the film. Some of my most vivid memories are of Elizabeth Bennet walking the verdant countryside in her russet colored spencer jacket in Pride and Prejudice 1995, Marianne Dashwood spraining her ankle and being carried to safety by Willoughby in her rain drenched white muslin frock in Sense and Sensibility 1995, or Mary Crawford ready to pounce like a black widow spider in her cobwebby evening dress in Mansfield Park 1999. Much of how we perceive Regency fashion today is from film costume designer’s interpretations of the fashions during Jane Austen’s time. I admit to admiring the fine cut of a gentleman’s tailored redingote or the elegant flow of a ladies formal evening dress as much as the next Janeite, but am totally clueless about why and how fashion changed so drastically since the heavy brocades, embroidered silks and powdered wigs of pre-revolutionary France.
As an introduction to Georgian and Regency fashion, this slim 63 page volume answered many questions and gave me a better understanding of the evolution of fashion, its importance in society and how English style influenced the world. The chapters are neatly broken down into seven significant categories: The Age of Elegance, The Rise of English Fashion, A Fine Romance, Beau Brummell and the Great Renunciation, Rousseau and Fashion Au Natural, Reticule and Ridicule, and After the age of Elegance. Throughout are beautiful (but small) images from original sources such as the popular women’s fashion magazines Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblée, portraits by the leading painters of the day Sir Henry Raeburn, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Sir Thomas Lawrence, and photographs of vintage clothing from the era. Interspersed throughout the text are references to Jane Austen, her family and characters in her novels to tie into a description of clothing or styles. A brief index at the back allows for quick reference by topic, person or place.
As part of the popular Shire Library series, Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen is a little glistening jewel of information on British fashion during the Georgian and Regency periods. For the novice historian it will inform and whet your appetite. For the veteran it will be a great refresher. For each, you will appreciate Downing’s straight forward presentation of material and her handling of the sense of the ridiculous that fashion can take by including Gillray caricatures and comical anecdotes. From the perspective of a Jane Austen enthusiast, Downing does state some eyebrow raising facts that to my knowledge have yet to be proven. As much as the Austen descendants would like the “Rice portrait” to be of Jane Austen, even my rudimentary knowledge of Regency fashion styles and math calculate the portrait to be much later than the 1792-93 range evaluated by experts, and the James Stanier Clarke portrait of a lady with a fur muff could be Jane Austen, but we shall never know for sure. (Best to say possibly Jane Austen to be safe and raise your credibility.) A small quibble in an overall splendid little treasure trove sure to please the Austenista in all of us.
Did you know that a phaeton was one of the most dangerous carriages used in the Georgian and Regency period? Its tall design and overall lightness mad...moreDid you know that a phaeton was one of the most dangerous carriages used in the Georgian and Regency period? Its tall design and overall lightness made it vulnerable to tipping, and may be one of the reasons why Jane Austen chose to use it in the carriage accident scene in her early novel Love and Friendship. Knowing this fact sheds a whole new light when we see one used again in Pride and Prejudice by the heiress Anne de Bourgh. Is Austen sending us another message by her selection of carriage? Unless the reader knows the difference between a phaeton, barouche or gig and their safety, they are missing out on important character analysis.
All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World can clarify the puzzling bits about the Georgian and Regency world. Offering modern readers a great resource into Austen’s cultural, political and physical environments, this concise volume is arranged alphabetically by topic and cross referenced to actual passages in the third edition of the Oxford Illustrated Novels of Jane Austen. Readers can identify items or subjects mentioned in her text and discover their use or meanings in context to the times. With well over 70 topics ranging from social titles and rank, life in the military or taking the waters in Bath, each well researched and expertly described entry will give Jane Austen students and devotees a wealth of historical and cultural information.
This new volume is actually a condensed version of All Things Austen: An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World, an extensive two volume set published in 2005. Author Kirstin Olsen has paired down her full encyclopedia by selecting key topics still supplying more than enough information to keep you well informed and reading for hours. Her meticulous research is written in a style accessible to the average reader, yet offering enough detail to intrigue the serious student. A perfect reference for Austen students, enthusiasts or Regency era writers, my only disappointment was in the quality and quantity of illustrations. She does offer reference call numbers to images viewable online at the Lewis Walpole Library to explore them in color and greater detail. Considering that this is a condensed edition, this is an excellent additional resource to readers with Internet access. Please do not be put off by the blatant error in the first line of the liner notes associating Willoughby with the novel Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Olsen obviously did not write them, and considering her monumental effort, this editing oversight should not disqualify this book’s greater benefits.(less)
My number one choice of Jane Austen inspired books of 2008
Has Jane Austen risen to a major pop-culture presence? Author Rebecca Dickson confidently th...moreMy number one choice of Jane Austen inspired books of 2008
Has Jane Austen risen to a major pop-culture presence? Author Rebecca Dickson confidently thinks so, and her thoughtfully researched and beautifully illustrated new edition Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury is quite a persuasive testament. Any doubting Thomas’ will be hard pressed to argue against the evidence skillfully presented in this volume. Not only are the carefully chosen Regency era images complementary to her expertly written text, the overall friendly and visually appealing design and its incredible value place it as my number one choice of Jane Austen inspired books of 2008.
Surprisingly, this volume is not just a fluffy image gallery packed with pretty pictures. Rebecca Dickson is an Austen scholar and instructor of writing and literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder with a doctorate in English Literature with a specialty in eighteenth-century writers. A professed Austen enthusiast since reading Pride and Prejudice in High School, Dickson has written an inspiring tribute to her favorite author geared to the everyman reader. Her style is open and engaging and I never once felt the scholarly mantle descend to befuddle the text. The opening introduction and short biography are followed by six chapters devoted to each of Jane Austen’s major novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Within each novel chapter, Dickson not only discusses the novel’s plot, characters, highlights and impact on classic literature, but places it in context to Jane Austen’s life and her times. In the chapter on Pride and Prejudice for instance, she has included its publishing evolution from first draft in 1797 as First Impressions, to Austen’s father’s failed attempt at publication, to its final acceptance and publication sixteen years later in 1813, interweaving the changes in Austen’s life and her financial situation adding impact and interest. Interspersed throughout the chapter are quotes from the text acting like ‘fact bites’ emphasizing important points. The images selected stunningly present illustrations from Austen’s novels by the late Victorian artists Hugh Thomson, C.E. and H.M. Brock, vintage paintings and contemporary movie stills. The surprise bonus is removable reproductions of actual documents ranging from copies of handwritten letters by Jane Austen to a page of the rough draft of Persuasion.
My one disappointment (and it is a trifle) is in the cover design which is adequately pretty, but has nothing to do with Jane Austen, nor adds any Regency era feel or interest to entice buyers to open, explore and purchase this book. Given the length of thoughtful research and numerous images included in this glorious edition, one hopes that buyers will truly not judge its value by its cover. Highly giftable as an introduction to Jane Austen or as a tribute to the indoctrinated Janeite, reading this lovely volume will leave few in doubt of Jane Austen’s position as pop-culture icon and literary genius.
Ok, who wants to be called a dummy, or heaven forbid, admit that you are a dummy? Show of hands please. Well, not me, and certainly not any of those a...moreOk, who wants to be called a dummy, or heaven forbid, admit that you are a dummy? Show of hands please. Well, not me, and certainly not any of those accomplished, well educated, and urbane literati who call themselves Janeites! Right? So, Jane Austen for Dummies? Let’s be kind folks. Would Jane approve?
As a bookseller, I have seen the amazing rise in popularity of the Dummies book series over the last decade that has fueled Wiley Publishing into a mighty empire. There are now Dummies books available on every imaginable subject from Beekeeping for Dummies to Napoleon for Dummies; the list of titles is staggering.
When Jane Austen for Dummies hit the book stores in 2006, I was repulsed. The words in the title are a diametric polar vertex; complete opposites to my feelings of what MY Jane Austen stood for. As Lizzy Bennet said when she heard that Charlotte Lucas was engaged to Mr. Collins, “impossible”.
Among my merry Internet travels, I ran across this great article entitled, Jane Austen, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, in which the book Jane Austen for Dummies is sandwiched in as an example of how the recent Austen mania has teetered off the edge of decorum.
“In addition, when constructing our soundbites, we ought not to forget the sheer breadth of today’s Austen craze; it’s more than just films and television adaptations we’re in for. New books have appeared, too, like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (2007) and Jane Austen for Dummies (2006). Though I worry that these books make reading her fiction sound like something done at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for slow learners, surely it’s not too late for some well-placed damage control?”
Ouch. I was a bit suspicious as the author, Prof. Devoney Looser, had lumped Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict into the mix. I had read it. In my opinion, it was not insulting to the memory of Miss Austen. Quite the contrary. Pastiche’s can be the closest form of a complement around. So was my first impression of Jane Austen for Dummies correct?
As I finished reading the article, I noticed that the author of Jane Austen for Dummies, Joan Klingel Ray, PhD, had posted a comment responding to the mention of her book in such an unprudential light, - and she was really going after the slight full force.
“But as the author of JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES, I take issue with her grouping my book with CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, which like other books of that ilk tap into Austen’s name recognition to sell fiction, dating guides, courtesy guides, etc.”
Ok Dr. Klingel Ray. I know that you are a past president of The Jane Austen Society of North America (2000-2006), and I curtsy reverently, but that condescension of another author’s work, and the genre in general was just mean, and not worthy of your rank and education. This seems to be turning into a kicking match that Caroline Bingley would be pleased to join in.
“Had Professor Looser even skimmed JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES, she would have seen that, like other books in the “Dummies” series, JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES is written to introduce interested persons to a subject-in this case, Jane Austen-in a straightforward, accessible way. Specifically, JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES explains to today’s readers of Austen’s fiction the cultural background of the novels that Austen, of course, assumed, her original readers-her contemporaries-would have immediately understood, but which may baffle today’s readers.”
She continues, at length, to elaborate the charms and practicalities of Jane Austen for Dummies, and concludes…
“So rather than preciously worrying about damage control, Professor Looser might read and then give the university employee a copy of JANE AUSTEN FOR DUMMIES, designed for those who wish to be Austen-Smarties, but need just a little extra information about Austen and her times to become so. In fact, if Professor Looser sends me the university employee’s name and school address, I will send him an autographed copy of the book.”
Ooo, Jane Austen academic cat fight!
The next day at work, intrigued by the brouhaha, I track down Jane Austen for Dummies, and you know, Dr. Klingel Ray was right. Anyone who reads this book will become a Jane Austen Smarty, which is much more agreeable to my sensibilities than being a dummy any day! It is a fun and fact filled volume, great for an introduction to Jane Austen, a brush up, or further research sources. Deeply readable, it truly demystifies our authoress, and adds to her charms. Thanks Dr. Klingel Ray. Now if you could sallie forth and gently nod to all of those Austenesque writers who did not intend to rip-off Jane Austen, there could be harmony and plenty in the Jane Austen community.
Author, and Jane Austen scholar Maggie Lane's lushly illustrated and thoroughly delightful volume on Jane Austen's life, times and works is one of my...moreAuthor, and Jane Austen scholar Maggie Lane's lushly illustrated and thoroughly delightful volume on Jane Austen's life, times and works is one of my Austen favorites in my library.
I gravitate to this lovely volume on my shelf when I need a quick Austen escape. Its large coffee table format allows for lush color photographs and period illustrations on each page, and author Maggie Lane was cleverly arranged the keynotes into five chapters, representing important aspects of Austen's world; Who was Jane Austen? Daily Life in Jane Austen's England, Society and the Spirit of the Age, The Visual World, and The Immortal Jane Austen. This volume also includes a well written introduction, chronology, helpful index and author's acknowledgments. Here is an example of the first topic in chapter one...
Chapter One: Who is Jane Austen?
The Woman: We learn about Jane Austen's birth, family and home environment that nurtured her genius. Her physical appearance, character and personality are described and exemplified by Lane's thorough research, aptly including insightful quotes from her letters and family reflections.
"Her unusually quick sense of the ridiculous inclined her to play with the trifling commonplaces of everyday life, whether as regarded people or things; but she never played with its serious duties or responsibilities - when she was grave, she was very grave." Anna Austen Lefroy
Inevitably, comparisons of Austen's personality lead to the paring of her attitudes and personality with the characteristics of her own heroines. Even though each of her heroines is highly individual, Lane hints at similarities in the characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Anne Elliot, and though I agree for the most part, I was amused to see how one can find what they need to suit, by reason and ingenuity.
The chapters are broken down further by topics and continue in chapter one as follows; The Writer, Beliefs and Values, The Letters, The Portraits, Family Background, Home at Steventon, The six brothers, Some female relations, Love and friendship, Family visits, Bath and the West Country, and Return to Hampshire.
Even though Maggie Lane is qualified to write a scholarly treatise, she knows her audience, and her light style is approachable and engaging. She includes enough biographical and historical detail to introduce us to the subject, and not weigh it down with heavy language and minutia. The photographs and illustration have been thoughtfully selected, significant to the topic, and important historically. Her scholarship is exemplary.
This is my favorite Austen book to give as a gift as an introduction to Jane Austen, and as eye candy to the indoctrinated. It has never failed to please, and I hope that we shall see many additional editions for future readers.
“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Fanny Price, Mansfield Park, Chapter 9
It seems quite fit...more“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Fanny Price, Mansfield Park, Chapter 9
It seems quite fitting that a quote from Jane Austen’s character Fanny Price, who is an astute observer of natural beauty, should open this book with such a succinct statement expressing her delight in being planted on the bench in Sotherton’s parkland to enjoy the serene beauty of the green landscape around her. Verdure is not a word that one runs across very often in contemporary writing but we should, because it vividly describes a scene and sensations in one word. It is no leap of the imagination that Fanny’s creator Jane Austen gave her such sentiments, for Jane dearly loved nature herself and included references to it and gardening in her novels and letters.
Author Kim Wilson must be a Fanny Price too, sensitive and observant to natures beauty as her new book In the Garden With Jane Austen is a verdurous delight, introducing us to Austen’s affinity to nature through the gardens she would have experienced in her own homes, family members and public gardens of Georgian and Regency England. This beautiful little volume is packed full of quotes from her novels and letters referencing her characters experiences in the garden and her own love of garden cultivation. It has always appeared to me that some of the best plot development in her novels happened while her characters were walking and I am reminded that her heroine’s Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Morland, and Emma Woodhouse were all proposed to in a garden or on a woodland path. Hmm? Should we take a clue from this ladies and get your men outside?
Ms. Wilson has certainly done her research collecting many quotes and antecedents from Austen’s novels, letters and family lore effectively placing them in historical context and illustrated with beautiful photographs of the actual locations mentioned. I felt like I was on a personal garden tour of Austen’s life as I traveled from the cottage gardens of her home in Steventon and Chawton, to the manor house gardens of her family such as brother Edward at Godersham Park, Goodnestone Park, and Chawton House, and the estate of Stoneleigh Abbey owned by her cousins the Leigh’s. We are also treated to views of other famous estates that might have inspired settings in her novels such as Chatsworth House reputed to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice and Cottesbrook Hall for Mansfield Park.
Even though this is a lovely pictorial edition, the text is what really shines with so many facts and observations on how nature and gardens influenced Jane Austen’s life and writings. I will admit to a more than slight disappointment in the book’s small size and paperback format though in comparison to other comparably priced larger sized hardcover editions on the market.
I must confess a large prejudice in favor of this book even before it was published since it combined two of my passions, Jane Austen and gardening. When I finally had the book in hand, I was happy to discover that the last chapter is devoted to re-creating a Jane Austen inspired garden yourself reminiscent of a Regency or Georgian era. What a fanciful thought that plants that Austen admired can be obtained and grown either in a classic presentation, a few simple pots of garden herbs or her favorite flowering shrub the syringa placed by your front door to remind you everyday that looking upon verdure in the perfect refreshment.
Even though it has been two hundred years since the world was first introduced to sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s financial, social and romanti...moreEven though it has been two hundred years since the world was first introduced to sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood’s financial, social and romantic trials, their story remains for me, as fresh and vibrant as any contemporary story you might read of, experience yourself, or hear tell tale of today. I give full credit, of course, to Jane Austen. Her understanding of human nature and how to craft emotions and characters into an engaging story remains unparalleled. Add to that a delightful twelve hour and forty-three minute reading by the accomplished British actress Juliet Stevenson’s polished interpretation of memorable personalities and you are primed for unsurpassed entertainment. Here is a brief description from the publisher:
When Mrs. Dashwood is forced by an avaricious daughter-in-law to leave the family home in Sussex, she takes her three daughters to live in a modest cottage in Devon. For Elinor, the eldest daughter, the move means a painful separation from the man she loves, but her sister Marianne finds in Devon the romance and excitement which she longs for. The contrasting fortunes and temperaments of the two girls as they struggle to cope in their different ways with the cruel events which fate has in store for them are portrayed by Jane Austen with her usual irony, humor and profound sensibility.
It is amazing to think that Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first published novel. As a debut author she showed incredible understanding of characterization and plot development. Many of the personalities contained in this novel remain the most memorable for me of her entire canon. The affability of Sir John Middleton, the persistent meddling of Mrs. Jennings, the droll indifference of Mr. Palmer and the malleable weakness of Mr. John Dashwood are played against the narrow greed of the unscrupulous Fanny Dashwood and her officious, spiteful mother Mrs. Ferrars. These secondary characters really make our heroes and villains shine, and withstanding the two heroines Elinor and Marianne, it is amusing to see how Austen plays with our emotions in guessing who the heroes will be and how the morality will play out. Sense and Sensibility does have a few plot wholes and loose coincidences that readers will be raising eyebrows over, but it remains a novel wholly entrenched in the passionate joys of youthful love and emotional loss, cruel social snobbery and biting social reproof as relevant today as it was in 1811.