Monday, May 27, 2013

can the real jane austen please stand up?

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne is not your average biography. Byrne tells her story by taking an item that Jane Austen owned, used or would have seen and uses it as a springboard to discuss the different aspects of her life and her family. The objects that Byrne describes allow the reader to glimpse Austen's life from a perspective somewhat over her shoulder. The first object Byrne describes is an engraving of Lyme Regis, a West Dorset coastal village, showing us Austen’s love of the sea. Also included is an East Indian shawl that introduces some of Austen's more exotic relatives. And her notebooks containing her youthful writings show how her family nurtured her writing. This strategy causes the biography to jump around a bit, but it’s still a genius idea with impeccable research.

I learned a lot. For example did you know that Jane Austen, contrary to what people might expect, was firmly not of the belief that there is only one person in the world whom you can love? I find this comforting.

This biography is different, informative, and fun to read. Three of my favorite things.

No comments: