From the desk of Lisa Galek:
If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite author celebrated Christmas in the 18th century—or just know someone who has—A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons, and Mistletoe by Carlo DeVito is the perfect package to place under the tree this holiday.
A Jane Austen Christmas takes us through Jane’s life story but focuses only on events that happened around Christmastime. We begin with the holiday season of 1786, when Jane is only 11-years-old and spends time with her visiting cousin, Eliza, and ends with the Christmas of 1815 when Emma is published for the first time. On the way, we get to know more about Jane Austen and her family, read about holiday traditions in 18th-century England, and learn to make some delicious, Regency-era Christmas treats. Yum!
At first, I thought there might not be much to say about Jane Austen at Christmastime. Though all her novels mention Christmas, the season isn’t a big focus, except perhaps as a backdrop for Mr. Elton’s unwelcome proposal in Emma. But, the narrow seasonal scope of this book really makes it an easy-to-read guide to some of the important moments in Jane Austen’s life. Because the author is just touching on Christmas memories, the reader isn’t overwhelmed with tons of details about the author’s life story. We just get to focus on key events in her journey.
I, for one, never really realized that Jane Austen first met Tom LeFroy when he was visiting the area around Christmastime. I also never realized that Harris Bigg-Wither proposed to her while the Austen sisters were staying with his family over the holidays. Understanding some of these moments in the context of the season helped to give them an intimacy that hadn’t been there before—at least not for me.
But, the author, who has written several other books about famous writers and their Christmas traditions, is at his best when he’s telling us about Christmases from long, long ago. I was delighted by all the little details he shares about what life was like during a real Georgian Christmas—burning the Yule log, displaying fresh fruit in winter, and even an authentic recipe for mead. It was interesting to find out, too, that the Christmas season would have begun for Jane on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) and continued on through Twelfth Night sometime around January 6th. I couldn’t help but feel envious—our holiday season seems to run from the start of excessive shopping up until that one big gift-giving day.
The only issue I had with the entire book was that I noticed nearly a dozen glaring errors. We’re told at the beginning of the book that Jane Austen had “six bothers” rather than “six brothers.” There are also missing commas, several misspelled words, and Jane’s family name is misprinted as “Austin” at one point. My copy looked to be a finished printing (not an advanced reader’s copy), so the mistakes did bother me and made me doubt the overall quality of an otherwise very well done and sweet book.
Aside from those small errors, A Jane Austen Christmas is a delightful read. The book itself is beautifully designed with a lovely red cover and pages with a deckle edge to give them an older, hand-cut look. It really is the ideal holiday gift for any Austen fan who would like to get to know more about the author while diving into tales of Christmases past.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons & Mistletoe, by Carlo DeVito
Cider Mill Press (2015)
Hardcover & eBook (192) pages
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.”
Cover and images courtesy of Cider Mill Press © 2015; text Lisa Galek © 2015, Austenprose.com