All Things Austen, by Kirstin Olsen – A Review

A Concise Encyclopeida of Austen's World, by Kirstin Olsen (2008)Did you know that a phaeton was one of the most dangerous carriages used in the Georgian and Regency period? Its tall design and overall lightness made it vulnerable to tipping, and may be one of the reasons why Jane Austen chose to use it in the carriage accident scene in her early novel Love and Friendship. Knowing this fact sheds a whole new light when we see one used again in Pride and Prejudice by the heiress Anne de Bourgh. Is Austen sending us another message by her selection of carriage? Unless the reader knows the difference between a phaeton, barouche or gig and their safety, they are missing out on important character analysis. 

All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World can clarify the puzzling bits about the Georgian and Regency world. Offering modern readers a great resource into Austen’s cultural, political and physical environments, this concise volume is arranged alphabetically by topic and cross referenced to actual passages in the third edition of the Oxford Illustrated Novels of Jane Austen. Readers can identify items or subjects mentioned in her text and discover their use or meanings in context to the times. With well over 70 topics ranging from social titles and rank, life in the military or taking the waters in Bath, each well researched and expertly described entry will give Jane Austen students and devotees a wealth of historical and cultural information. 

This new volume is actually a condensed version of All Things Austen: An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World, an extensive two volume set published in 2005. Author Kirstin Olsen has paired down her full encyclopedia by selecting key topics still supplying more than enough information to keep you well informed and reading for hours. Her meticulous research is written in a style accessible to the average reader, yet offering enough detail to intrigue the serious student. A perfect reference for Austen students, enthusiasts or Regency era writers, my only disappointment was in the quality and quantity of illustrations. She does offer reference call number to images viewable online at the Lewis Walpole Library to explore them in color and greater detail. Considering that this is a condensed edition, this is an excellent additional resource to readers with Internet access. Please do not be put off by the blatant error in the first line of the liner notes associating Willoughby with the novel Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Olsen obviously did not write them, and considering her monumental effort, this editing oversight should not disqualify this book’s greater benefits. 

5 out of 5 Regency stars 

All Things Austen: A Concise Encyclopedia of Austen’s World
By Kirstin Olsen
Trade paperback (425) pages
Greenwood World Publishing (2008)
ISBN: 978-1846450525

The Sunday Salon Badge

The Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Blogosphere

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.”
Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

Austen around the blogosphere for the week of September 28th

A new stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice opened at The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this week. Austenprose was lucky to snag a review by local Janeite Deborah Jane and you can read all about this stunning adaptation here.

Lost in Austen concluded triumphantly this week with episode four as heroine Amanda Price dashed about from century to century attempting to fix the mixed up plot. Some critics loved it, others did not. You can read about all the deconstruction discussion on AustenBlog, and reviews on Jane Austen’s World, BlogCritics, And Leaves the World, The Journal of the Browncoat Cat, and Austenprose. Now that it is over, I hope that producers out there in TV and movie land will consider another Austen novel re-imagining. It certainly got the media and people discussing and watching our favorite authoresses work, or sort of her work since the plot was not quite what Austen penned.

Inspired by Lost in Austen? One of favorite Austen blogs from down under has some ideas on what producers could do with the plot and characters in Mansfield Park. Too funny!

Austen-esque book reviews for the week, Cassandra & Jane, times two, and three, All Things Austen, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, and The Darcys and the Bingleys. In addition, check out the reports and interviews from Austenesque authors, Rebecca Ann Collins, Jill PitkeathleyJane Odiwe, and the summer 2008 book reviews have been added to JASNA on line.

Author Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds) was interviewed about her new Austen inspired book, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, that hit book stores in Australia on October 1st and in the US on December 9th. This highly anticipated sequel is McCullough’s chance to stick it to the literati who dismiss her novels as pulp and write something tongue-in-cheek to tweak a few noses. Oh my! If the book is as outspoken as Ms. McCullough, Miss Mary Bennet might be as grating as her singing.

Who is Sophia Sentiment, and what is her connection to Jane Austen? The Becoming Jane fansite offers some possibilities this week along with some nice physical descriptions of the author by her family.

It looks like major casting is now complete for the Broadway bound musical Pride and Prejudice by the selection of Laura Osnes as literary legend Elizabeth Bennet. Readers might recognize Ms. Osnes as one of the winners in the TV reality show, ‘Your The One That I Want’ which aired last summer and selected the two starring roles of Sandy and Danny in the Broadway revival of Grease in a round robin type audition-off. Miss Bennet could not have a more beautiful or talented actress to portray her. Best of luck Laura!

Pride and Prejudice character Lydia Bennet is one fun and naughty young lady, and author Jane Odiwe is her celebrated channel as she continues penning her journal at Jane Austen Sequels blog.

The Annual General Meeting for JASNA opened today in Chicago celebrating Austen’s Legacy. I’m pea green over all my Austen friends having so much Jane fun without me. Be sure to have an Austentini for all of those absent Janeites!

Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey kicked off this week here at Austenprose. The Austen novel event will feature a group read of the novel, guest bloggers and free giveaways. Check out the introduction to the event to catch up with the celebration. Here are a few participants; Becky’s Book Reviews, Jane Austen Reviews, Cherishing Darcy, Bookbath, Kimberley’s Cup, A Striped Armchair, Wings of EaglesA Moment Captured, and Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker. The Northanger fun continues until October 31st, so please join us.

Until next week, happy reading!

Laurel Ann