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jane austen cover to cover

Source: Review copy from Quirk
Rating: ★★★★★

Austen’s imagination and intellect transcended the fiction of her own time and created the cherished characters and timeless stories for which she is still celebrated today.  No matter how beautiful, tacky, infuriating, beguiling, silly, or strange the packaging may be, the story inside never changes.  And that, after all, is the most important thing.

(from Jane Austen Cover to Cover)

Quick summary: In Jane Austen Cover to Cover, Margaret C. Sullivan showcases the cover designs of Jane Austen’s work over the past 200 years, from the first editions to beautiful collectors’ editions to the quirky and the silly.  Sullivan highlights translated editions, movie tie-in covers, and covers meant to attract a younger audience.  But this book is more than just a collection of covers; Sullivan goes into detail about the history of book publishing and how advances in the printing press and even the popularity of rail travel put Jane Austen’s novels into the hands of mainstream readers.  Complete with color images, information about each edition, and quotes from Austen’s novels, Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a must-read for Austen fans.

Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the premise and curious if any of the books in my own Austen collection would be featured.  Of course, that meant the minute I received the book, I dropped everything, started perusing, and found a few of the editions I own…and plenty I want to own!

What I liked: I loved everything about this book, but most especially I loved that it was more than just cover images.  Sullivan definitely did her homework, and it’s obvious how much she enjoyed this project.  I learned a lot about how books were made in Austen’s time and how much the process has changed, and I had a few laughs as well, particularly at a cover of Persuasion that portrays “the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy Captain Wentworth as the commander of a 1960s-era New England schooner” looking “like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.”

What I disliked: Absolutely nothing!

Final thoughts: Because of their popularity over two centuries, Jane Austen’s novels are perfect for highlighting trends in the publishing industry.  Jane Austen Cover to Cover covers a lot of ground and even provides advice for readers looking to start their own collections and stay within budget.  Most importantly, it reminds Austen fans what first drew them to her novels and which novel was the first in their collection.  (Mine was this tattered edition of Pride and Prejudice.)  Jane Austen Cover to Cover is worthy of being added to a Janeite’s collection and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift.  Check out this article in The Guardian for a glimpse of some of the covers and the humor featured in the book.

Disclosure: I received Jane Austen Cover to Cover from Quirk for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

5. Do not annoy your fiancé during the trip.  If you ask stupid questions such as, “Darling, would you still love me if I did not have a fortune of fifty thousand pounds?” you may not like the answer that you receive.

(from “How to Elope to Scotland” in The Jane Austen Handbook, page 132)

Margaret C. Sullivan, editrix of Austenblog.com, has created the perfect book for fans of Jane Austen who would like to know more about life in Regency England.  The Jane Austen Handbook is a wonderful companion to Austen’s novels, especially given that Austen’s works feature terms and societal rules/norms that are no longer in vogue.  I admit that this book would have come in handy when I read Sanditon and was curious about bathing machines; thankfully, there are a lot of great online resources for Austen fans, but The Jane Austen Handbook packs the basic information into a single volume.

Sullivan groups these Regency facts into four sections and introduces each chapter with a relevant quote from an Austen novel.  In the first section, “Jane Austen’s World & Welcome to It,” she discusses what constitutes an accomplished lady, the education of ladies and gentlemen, how to write a letter, and where to travel and what to do while you’re there.  Various modes of transportation, including gigs, curricles, and post-chaises, are explained and featured in illustrations.  In “A Quick Succession of Busy Nothings; Or, Everyday Activities,” Sullivan covers everything from planning a dinner party and raising children to how to dress for particular times of day and how to assemble the appropriate wardrobe.  In “Making Love,” selecting a husband, marrying off your daughter, handling unwanted marriage proposals, and eloping to Scotland are hot topics.  The final section, “The Best Company; Or, Social Gatherings,” will tell you everything you need to know about paying a morning call and attending dinner parties and balls.

The Jane Austen Handbook features illustrations of clothing and needlework and detailed descriptions of card games played in Austen’s day, among other fascinating tidbits.  For readers seeking more information about Austen, the appendix features a short biography, a summary of Austen’s six novels, and details about the various film adaptations.  Websites and other resources for Janites are included as well.

Sullivan writes with humor and an obvious affection for Austen and the world that lives on in her novels.  My knowledge of Regency England was very limited, consisting of only what I learned from reading Austen’s novels, so I found this book to be very informative.  It was a light, fast read, and just what I needed for the work commute.  The Jane Austen Handbook would make the perfect gift for an Austen fan, especially one in need of an easy-to-read and thoroughly entertaining resource to keep nearby when reading (and re-reading) Austen’s works.

Disclosure: The Jane Austen Handbook is from my personal library.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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