Jane Austen is one of the greatest novelists in English Literature. On the surface, her six published works appear simple romances; yet each is utterly distinct and each is complex in a different way. Her novels delight on first reading, but every further reading yields new and unexpected riches. As a result no individual reader ever exhausts her books, and each period sees something that speaks especially to its own concerns. The novels become new for every generation.
(from Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, page 5)
Quick summary: Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels is a book all Jane Austen fans will want in their personal libraries. Oversized, with padded covers and glossy pages covered with artwork from Austen’s era, this biography details Austen’s life and loves, historical events that occurred during her lifetime, and her career as an author. Chapters are devoted to each of Austen’s six novels, as well as her early writings, her unfinished works, and Lady Susan. Todd even discusses “The Cult of Austen,” which touches on the film adaptations and spin-off novels. As a bonus, the book includes three envelopes containing removable memorabilia, including copies of Austen’s handwritten drafts, a letter to her sister, a handwritten note detailing the profits from her novels, and more.
Why I wanted to read it: There’s no way I could resist a collector’s edition biography, especially one with removable documents!
What I liked: This is a beautiful biography, which sums up Austen’s life and novels without going overboard on the details. The presentation is beautiful, from the illustrations to the removable documents.
What I disliked: There were confusing references to “Susan,” the early version of Northanger Abbey that Austen submitted for publication in 1803 and later was forced to buy back from the publisher, as Lady Susan, one of her earlier works, which was not published until 1871.
Final thoughts: Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels can be read in one sitting, but readers will want to savor it. It’s a book that I can see myself returning to, simply to enjoy the illustrations and the removable memorabilia, and it would make a perfect gift for the Janeite in your life.
Disclosure: I received Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels from Sterling Publishing for review.
© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.