Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, by Janet Todd – A Review

Jane Austen Her Life Her Times and Her Novels by Janet Todd 2014 x 200One of my greatest discoveries while touring Jane Austen’s England last year was on our first day in London. Our group was at The British Library to see Jane Austen’s writing desk (awe-inspiring) and of course, we hit the library gift shop on our way out. We were delighted to find a whole table display featuring books by and about Jane Austen. Dead center was the striking purple cover of a large, over-sized book that I did not recognize entitled, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels. It had just been released in the UK in honor of the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice. On first impression it appeared, by its size and design, to be one of those glitzy oversized gift books that had pull out facsimiles of letters and documents along with big glossy images – a trophy book that you might place on your coffee table as a display piece or give as a gift to friend that you were trying to convert into a Janeite. When I noticed that the author was the celebrated Austen scholar Janet Todd, my first impressions changed immediately.

Weighing in at 2.7 pounds and sizing up at 11 X 10 inches, this full-feature Jane Austen experience packs a wallop – a giant adrenalin rush for any fan or neophyte. Not only is the book beautifully bound and designed, but it also seeks to dispel any speculation and myth about the author’s life and works. The text has been laid out logically within twenty-two chapters covering biographical material, her early writing, published and unpublished works, history in context to her life and writing, and concludes with her legacy entitled, The Cult of Austen. Drawing on previously unseen documents from The British Library and the archives of The Bridgeman Art Library, Todd offers sixteen facsimile copies of Austen’s handwritten letters, manuscripts and notes, period maps and illustrations, and a frontispiece from the 1833 Pride and Prejudice. Her brilliant introduction will draw you into Austen’s Georgian world and the handy index in the back allows for quick reference to facts and details.

Jane Austen Her Life Her Times Her Novels

Stylish, expertly crafted, and surprisingly illuminating to this long-time Austen fan, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels is just superb. You will consume this book like the richly flavored and decadent confection that it is. It now holds pride of place in my extensive Austen library and will be on the top of my list as a gift book to friends. And, as a word of extreme warning, there is a pirated copy of this book for sale on eBay which includes Todd’s text and lists Deirdre Le Faye as the author. Please do not support these thieves by purchasing it.

5 out of 5 Stars

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, by Janet Todd
Carlton Books (2013)
Hardcover (112) pages
ISBN: 978-0233003702

Cover image courtesy of Carlton Books © 2013; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2014, Austenprose.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

15 thoughts on “Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels, by Janet Todd – A Review

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  1. My sister and I were at the British Library this summer! (Really completely by accident…) We were killing time before our train out of London. Imagine our delight when we discovered the collection of lit artifacts including her writing desk!! Truly a brilliant library collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I learn of the existence of this book last year when I research new books about and inspired by Jane Austen but didn’t order it. Thanks to your wonderful and effusive review, Laurel, I decided that now is the time to get it. Look at what you have made me do. :P

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always admired Janet Todd’s work, even the heavy, thick studies. I was pleasantly surprised by how concise Todd can be when talking on a subject she knows well. The books is a beauty and one to share with friends. Thanks for the info on the pirate copies. The stinkers.


  4. I bought this last year one for me and one for the sister in law, but I didn’t recognise it from your review picture until you opened it up as my copy is green. I love the little files that contain the facsimiles copies and that it slides into a protective sleeve!!


    1. Hi Tamara, I believe you purchased one of the pirated editions. I know a friend in England whose husband purchased one for her too. The pirates were very brazen by using the same ISBN and selling it at major retailers. Really sad for Todd and embarrassing for Le Fay.


      1. I am all astonishment no wonder I couldn’t find it on the internet when I tried to look it up!! Well thank you for the heads up, I will have to replace it now, this will not do!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is definitely going on my Amazon wish list, so thanks for the heads up about pirated copies. Did you purchase this book at the British Museum? It must have taken up so much room in your suitcase? But so worth it!


  6. Yes, I would like to see the book about Jane Austen’s letter, her hand writing note, her dairy about her thought and daily life in her century culture.


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