Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës, by Devoney Looser — A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

If you’ve ever wished that Jane Austen’s family had preserved more of her personal letters, have I got a surrogate wish-fulfillment for you. It is my pleasure to introduce the gifted nineteenth-century novelists Jane and Anna Maria Porter. Although their copious correspondence remains unpublished—and may always, as the writers themselves expressed was their wish—it has been carefully curated into a stunning biography of these innovative writers. Continue reading “Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës, by Devoney Looser — A Review”

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:

Happy Friday Dear Readers,

Are you ready to be inspired? If so, I am happy to introduce you to moving story of a life-long Jane Austen fan who began her journey in the 1940s, earned her PhD in teaching and reading Jane Austen at the age of 88, and published her first book at 90. The Jane Austen Remedy traverses nine decades of “living, loving, and learning” by unravelling memories of relationships and life experiences. It is the “moving account of the reassessment of a full life through the prism of Jane Austen’s beloved works.” Enjoy! Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson”

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, by Lucy Worsley — A Review

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, by Lucy Worsely (2017)From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

What can the places that Jane Austen called home tell us about the author’s life and work? In Jane Austen at Home, historian, author, and BBC presenter Lucy Worsley looks at the author’s life through the lens of Austen’s homes.  As Worsley notes in the book’s introduction, “For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe?” (1) Worsley seeks to place Jane Austen “into her social class and time” while admitting that, as an Austen reader and biographer, she has a vision of the beloved author that allows Jane to speak for her and to her circumstances. “Jane’s passage through life, so smooth on the surface, seems sharply marked by closed doors, routes she could not take, choices she could not make. Her great contribution was to push those doors open, a little bit, for us in later generations to slip through.” (4)

Jane Austen at Home is divided into four major sections, titled as acts in a play. I thought this a lovely touch by Ms. Worsley, reminding readers of the Austen family’s love of amateur theatricals. “Act One: A Sunny Morning at the Rectory” covers Austen’s early life at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire (1775-1801). During this period, Jane traveled to relatives’ homes and even lived away at boarding schools for several years. Nonetheless, Steventon remained her place of safety until her father’s retirement forced Mr. and Mrs. Austen, along with Cassandra and Jane, to move to Bath.

Steventon Rectory, Hampshire

Steventon Rectory, Hampshire

Continue reading “Jane Austen at Home: A Biography, by Lucy Worsley — A Review”

The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser—A Review

From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I remember what I felt when I discovered that Jane Austen was not famous in her lifetime: Outright shock. I had been a self-proclaimed Janeite for years when I discovered this fact. I had read her books multiple times, collected movie adaptations, researched and written papers about her novels in college, etc. The enormous amount of 21st-century hype around Jane led me to believe that, like Charles Dickens, her fame began in her lifetime. How wrong I was; in fact, many of Austen’s early readers never even knew her name until after she died.

Discovering you are mistaken is always a jolting experience, and I felt like my own literary world had Continue reading “The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser—A Review”

Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life, by Lucy Worsley – A Review

queen victoria 24 days x 200

Just in time for the premiere on 13 January 2019 of the third season of Victoria on Masterpiece Classic on PBS, Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life is a new biography of one of the United Kingdom’s (and the world’s) most famous queens. Arriving like a gift on a royal red velvet cushion, fans of the TV series and British history will devour and adore this book.

In her usually upbeat and engaging style, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, television presenter, and one-woman British history hurricane, Lucy Worsley’s biography of Queen Victoria is a selective and sympathetic view of the life of the most powerful woman of her generation. Structured as twenty-four significant dates in her life, it is a personal look at her family history, social context, and her inner thoughts and impressions. Drawing upon a variety of sources, including her own personal diaries and of those around her, Worsley also adds quotes and references from the Queen’s major biographers and historians of the Victorian era.

Some readers may assume that the most significant dates in the Queen’s long life such as her coronation, marriage or the death of her beloved husband Albert would be the most interesting dates of her life. However, I found the quieter moments, even more, moving, insightful and tragic. For example, on the 20th of June 1837 not only did she learn that her uncle William IV had died, making her Queen, but she also met privately for the first time with her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne who would become a close advisor, stalwart advocate and dear friend to the young Queen. Starved for male companionship after the death of her father in her infancy and a childhood dominated by a weak mother and her circle of cronies, Melbourne would become the antidote to her lonely and isolated life helping her to transition to a monarch and rule her country. Continue reading “Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her Life, by Lucy Worsley – A Review”

Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, by Paula Byrne – A Review

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

Commissioned by the producers of the new movie Belle, acclaimed biographer Paula Byrne aims to reveal the true story behind the main characters in the movie: Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy and an African slave, and her great-uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-93) and Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice is Continue reading “Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, by Paula Byrne – A Review”

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne – A Review

Image of the book cover of The Real Jane Austen, by Paula Byrne © 2013 HarperCollins From the desk of Br. Paul Byrd, OP

“This book is something different and more experimental. Rather than rehearsing all the known facts, this biography focuses on a variety of key moments, scenes and objects in both the life and work of Jane Austen…In addition, this biography follows the lead of Frank Austen rather than Henry. It suggests that, like nearly all novelists, Jane Austen created her characters by mixing observation and imagination” (6-7).

I was very excited to be asked to review Paula Byrne’s new biography on Jane Austen. Not only is it the first rigorous biography on Austen to appear in print since Claire Tomalin and David Nokes both published their works in 1997 (both entitled Jane Austen: A Life), but it is also an example of a refreshingly different approach to biographical presentation. Like the famous British hermit and art critic, Sister Wendy, Byrne begins each chapter with an image and a short commentary which then serve as gateways into the central details about Continue reading “The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, by Paula Byrne – A Review”

Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review

From the desk of Laura A. Wallace: 

I must acknowledge that it is well-nigh impossible for me to be objective when it comes to reviewing Jennifer Kloester’s new biography of Georgette Heyer which was released this month in the UK.  Rarely have I looked forward so much to reading a biography.  But be assured, gentle reader, that had I found it sub-standard, I would tell you so.  Instead, I am delighted to report that it met or exceeded almost all of Continue reading “Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, by Jennifer Kloester – A Review”

The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken-Hodge – A Review

From the desk of Laura A. Wallace: 

Jane Aiken Hodge’s 1984 biography of Georgette Heyer, reissued this month by Sourcebooks, was until very recently the only one available.  Published ten years after Heyer’s death, it describes her life primarily from her letters to her publisher.  An intensely private person, Heyer eschewed publicity, never giving an interview, and not keeping her papers for posterity.  Thus a biographer has relatively little material Continue reading “The Private World of Georgette Heyer, by Jane Aiken-Hodge – A Review”

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef (2011)Little is known of the life Jane Austen (1775-1817), but amazingly there are some hefty, scholarly biographies in print. Two of my favorites were both published in 1997 and confusingly share the same title. Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin and David Nokes are both detailed and far-reaching in scope, elaborating on Austen’s life, her family and historical context. That is great for the ardent enthusiasts or budding scholars but might scare the heck out of a young reader or someone who is just looking for a lighter biography to start off with.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is an excellent introduction for a teen or novice admirer who may have seen a movie adaptation or two and even ventured into one of the novels. It is an excellent “starter biography,” clearly written, peppered with period images, movie stills and great tidbits of historical facts. I particularly appreciated Catherine Reef’s choice of incorporating synopsis’ of the novel plots and characters into the text. It helped place Jane Austen’s choice of subject in context to what she had experienced in her own life and offered an insightful overview of her major works.

Pride and Prejudice opens with one of the most famous sentences ever written: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” With these words, Jane Austen announced to her readers that they were about to meet such a man and the people eager to marry him off. What was more, they were going to have fun. The dark cynicism of Sense and Sensibility was largely gone, blown away by a clean, fresh wind. Page 87

Calling upon known facts, Austen family recollections, and Jane’s own personal letters, Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is a beautifully designed gift quality edition offering an engaging and informative biography geared for those who seek to understand the woman behind the genius.

4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2011)
Hardcover (208) pages
ISBN: 978-0547370217

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Pocket Posh® Jane Austen: 100 Puzzles & Quizzes, by The Puzzle Society™ – A Review

Pocket Posh Jane Austen: 100 Puzzles and Quizzes, by The Puzzle Society (2011)For those addicted to brain teasers and Jane Austen, I have the prefect diversion for you. The Puzzle Society™ has assembled this tidy Pocket Posh® edition of crosswords, quizzes, word searches, codewords and more, all inspired by Jane Austen, her novels and her world.

Challenge your knowledge of “our” Jane in this compact pocket edition wrapped in a beautiful Renaissance rose pattern cover design, bound by elastic band closure with smooth rounded edges.  Slip it in your purse, backpack or brief case Janeites with the assurance that you will expand your knowledge and appreciation of our favorite author while on the go.

I confess that I might rival Austen’s ditzy character Harriet Smith in the lack of analytical skills department.  Without Miss Woodhouse’s help she was not able to decode the riddle that Mr. Elton presented to her for her riddle book collection. I was able to answer some of the quiz questions and catch a few errors in the text, but please, please, I beg you, don’t even ask me to attempt a crossword or codeword puzzle.  I could quite possibly be the worst Janeite in the world to review this lovely little edition, so I am totally taking The Puzzle Society’s reputation at face value and leaving the solving to the higher IQ Janeites in the crowd. Have fun!

About the Author

The Puzzle Society™ is the Web’s premier source for challenging, professionally constructed puzzles and games. Updated daily and boasting a gaming archive of more than 8,000 puzzles, the Puzzle Society offers more than 70 nationally syndicated puzzles, including the Washington Post Crossword, L.A. Times Crossword, Universal Crossword, Universal Jigsaw, and Daily Jumble.

Watch Vic, of Jane Austen’s World’s great video of Pocket Posh Jane Austen.

Pocket Posh® Jane Austen:100 Puzzles & Quizzes, by The Puzzle Society™
Andrews McMeel Publishing (2011)
Paperback (160) pages, trim size: 4 x 6 in.
ISBN: 978-1449401238

Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity, by Peter J. Leithart – A Review

From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress: 

There are several biographies in print on Jane Austen (1775-1817) revealing her life, family, and her inspiration to become a writer. Two very famous books come to mind: Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin (1998) and oddly the same title published in the same year by David Nokes. Both books were extensively researched and are quite lengthy. This new slim volume, Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity, by Dr. Peter J. Leithart runs 192 pages and fills an entirely different niche. While the lengthier and exhaustive expositions might appeal to historical researchers, biography enthusiasts, and her dedicated fans, the size alone would Continue reading “Jane Austen: A Literary Celebrity, by Peter J. Leithart – A Review”

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