Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman – A Review

Janes Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Clarie Harman (2011)Guest review by Shelley DeWees – The Uprising

“The books went out of print, and Jane’s generation of Austens aged and died secure in their belief that the public’s curiosity about their sister had been satisfied.  But almost two hundred years and tens of thousands of books on Austen later, her fame and readership worldwide continues to grow.  Her six completed novels are among the best-known, best-loved, most-read works in the English language.  She is now a truly global phenomenon, known as much through film and television adaptations of her stories as through the books themselves, revered by non-readers and scholars alike.”

Oh, sorry.  Does that sound like every other Jane Austen biography you’ve ever read?  Let’s try another quote because, really Jane’s Fame is not like the other Jane Austen biographies.  Behold:

“Her influence reaches from the decoration of tea towels to a defense of extreme pornography, and her fans have included Queen Victoria, E.M. Forster, B.B. King (“Jane Austen!  I love Jane Austen!”), and the editor of the men’s magazine Nuts. Who else is cited with equal approval by feminists and misogynists, can be liked to nineteenth century anarchism, twenty-first-century terrorism, and forms part of the inspiration behind works as diverse as Eugene Onegin and Bridget Jones’s Diary?”

If the theme of this book could be anything (expect for, of course, Austenmania), it would be assumption-crushing-mania.  Was Jane Austen really the most humble person ever known?  Did she really not care about the money her books made?  And was she really not mortified by the seemingly endless stream of publisher rejections?  Your logic would tell you that, no, she probably wasn’t any of those things.  But what does your heart tell you?  How do you want to see her?  Is it weird that I’m asking you that?

Chock full of quotes, primary and secondary resources, and letters from every possible angle, Jane’s Fame is a treat for any Janeite.  I need not balk when I say that it truly is the most engaging biography of anyone I’ve ever read.  Ever.  And though Jane’s Fame contains a lot of statements like that first quote, most of it is populated with information you’ve probably never been exposed to.  Using correspondence between family and friends, publishers, critics, and neighbors, and wives of sons of sisters-in-law, Claire Harman constructs a dizzying portrait of our beloved Jane.  She goes further to describe just how much Jane has affected us, infiltrating our minds, hearts, and pop culture to the point of, ahem…mania, and continues on to explore those strange assumptions we’ve made about her.

The book sets in motion a thorough unraveling of everything Austen we thought we knew, presenting the life and times of our most revered author amongst a myriad of head-scratching possibilities.  The dichotomy is interesting: Was she a “fire-poker” or a saint?  Was she a “husband-hunting butterfly” or the epitome of quiet, thoughtful femininity?  Did she love children or struggle to connect with them?  Claire Harman attempts to answer these questions but, in the end, she leaves it up to you.  She instead brings to light to oddities that exists in our asking them, since we all seem to think we own Jane somehow.

Harman’s depiction is strong (especially in the beginning), but also seems to bear the impression of an Austen purist and has more than a few acidic words for any attempted manipulations of the original works.  Her quotations can get a little out of hand sometimes, twirling the reader about in a “Wait…who’s talking?” kind of way, and the book has come under the gun for suspected plagiarism and un-attributed references.

Yeah, the book has a few faults, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.  I think you’ll love Jane’s Fame since you are, in all probability, as much a member of the We Worship Jane Austen cult as I am.  Who can blame you?  She lives in our hearts and in our minds.  She’s special to all of us in different ways.  How many authors have the same claim to fame as Jane?

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman
Picador (2011)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0312680657

© 2007 – 2011 Shelley DeWees, Austenprose

Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 10

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

April 19-25, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

Austenesque author Laurie Viera Rigler’s addiction to Jane Austen has inspired two best selling books: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. Now she can add an original comedy web series on Babelgum.com to her Janeite accolades. Read all about  Sex and the Austen Girl on her blog and tune in next month for the first episode! Congrats Laurie. Brava!

Noteworthy:

Brooding Brontës replace Jane Austen as the bonnet drama remakes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights return to the BBC and Film4 in the UK next season. Jane considered too tame and the Brontës are right for the times!

Interview of Austenesque author Amanda Grange (Mr. Darcy’s Diary, et all) at Dark Angel Review & Writing Blog about her experience getting published for the first time.

The Republic of Pemberley continues its group read of Pride and Prejudice through May 23rd, 2010

Great deal on bargain priced editions of Amanda Grange’s Austen Heroes Series at Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

Get local with Jane — news from AustenBlog on local Austen events

Julie at Austenonly discusses the new quilt exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and ties in Jane Austen and her famous quilt that reside at Chawton Cottage.

Interview of Skylar Hamilton Burris, Austenesque author of Conviction at Austenesque Reviews

Jane Austen’s World discusses activitist Caroline Norton and a Woman’s Legal Rights in the 19th-century

JASNA members watch for the spring issue of JASNA News in your mailbox this week. News on the Annual General Meeting in Portland in October, a great book review by Diana Birchall of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet and part three of Jane Goes Digital by Mags of AustenBlog

Entertainment:

Just for fun: video mashup of Iron Man vs. Bridget Jones!

Inside news on the new indie movie Pride and Prejudice (2010) currently being filmed in Colorado at Pride and Prejudice 2005 Blog

Anil Kapoor’s Aisha the new Bollywood modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma starring his daughter Sonam Kapoor in the title role is set for an August 6th, 2010 release in India

Announcements:

Preview of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine’s May/June 2010 issue

Austenesque author Beth Pattillo’s new book The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Novel with Sense and Sensibility

GirleBooks announces a new print edition of The Sylph, by Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire with foreword by Heather Carrol of  The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Gude to the 18th-century. Join the group read of The Sylph that begins on May 1st.

The paperback edition of Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 just in time for summer beach reading.

The restored & remastered DVD edition of Pride and Prejudice 1995 goes on sale on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010. Huzzah! Now we can see the dripping Darcy emerging from the pond with more clarity and finer detail then every before!

Check out the new cover of Bespelling Jane Austen a new Austen inspired paranormal novel featuring four novellas from authors Mary Balogh, Janet Mullany, Susan Krinard, and Colleen Gleason. Very classy!

Book/Movie Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting

Laurel Ann

Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 9

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

April 12th – 18th, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

New author Jenni James of Northanger Alibi, a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey influenced by Twilight, lands the Austenesque book publicity coup of the decade! Wow. This might be a first for Austen on TV.

Noteworthy:

Author and Janeite Catherine Delors features Jane Austen’s juvenilia The History of England and directs us to the original manuscript viewable online at The British Museum website.

The beautiful new hardback editions of Penguin Classics are featured in a Elle Decor article including Jane Austen’s Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Interview of Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins at Austenprose. Swag contest ends 23 April 2010.

Author Jane Odiwe of Austen Sequels Blog features a preview of the new debut novel First Impressions, by Alexa Adams.

Regency Mourning Fashions in England by Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World is featured in the Suite 101.com online repository of insightful writers and informed readers.

Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe’s favorite Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho that they read together in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is highlighted on Jane Greensmith’s blog Reading, Writing, Playing in a great post on The Gothic Novel.

Shameless self promotion here, but Maria Grazia has interviewed moi for her lovely blog Fly High. Leave a comment and enter a chance to win your choice of selected Austenesque books. Ends 25 April, 2010.

Another interview of note is of Vera Nazarian, author of Mansfield Park and Mummies at Jane Austen’s World.

Vote for your favorite Pride and Prejudice book cover from my top ten favorites. As of today, there is a dead tie between White’s Publishings lovely new release showing a graphic rep of Regency dancers from the waist down and the classic cover design by Hugh Thomson for the 1894 peacock edition of P&P.

Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont blog posts info on Soethby’s The English Country House auction results. Oh my. Beautiful Regency-era items, but the prices Lousia!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane invented baseball since she mentioned it in her novel Northanger Abbey. Doubtful? Read further proof in the third installment of posts by Mags at AustenBlog.

Entertainment:

British actor Elliot Cowan (Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen 2009) opens in The Scottish Play in London next week. Read about the lore and superstition behind the Shakespeare play that we dare not mention.

The Jane Austen Story opened at Winchester Cathedral on 10 April, 2010. Read more about this new exhibit spotlighting Jane Austen’s burial place and life in Hampshire that will run until 20 September 2010.

The Los Angeles Times Book Festival has always been a lively affair and this year one of the guest speakers is author/editor Susannah Carson of the Austen anthology A Truth Universally Acknowledged that we reviewed and enjoyed. Jane Austen Today has a featured article on the the LA  festival which makes me homesick for outdoor book fairs that I frequented while I lived in California. *sigh*

New Austenesque Book Announcements:

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly — 16 Sep 2010

Book Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting.

Laurel Ann

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Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for April

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman (2009)The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in April, so keep your eyes open for these new titles. 

Nonfiction 

Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman 

This highly anticipated cultural biography of Jane Austen’s rise to fame and admiration by the masses has already raised an academic kerfuffle before it has even hit book stores. *ahem* It is on the top of my to be read pile, and I can not wait to dive in. Publisher’s description: This is a story of personal struggle, family intrigue, accident, advocacy and sometimes surprising neglect as well as a history of changing public tastes and critical practices. Starting with Austen’s own experience as a beginning author (and addressing her difficulties getting published and her determination to succeed), Harman unfolds the history of how her estate was handled by her brother, sister, nieces and nephews, and goes on to explore the eruption of public interest in Austen in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the making of her into a classic English author in the twentieth century, the critical wars that erupted as a result and, lastly, her powerful influence on contemporary phenomena such as chick-lit, romantic comedy, the heritage industry and film. Part biography and part cultural history, this book does not just tell a fascinating story – it is essential reading for anyone interested in Austen’s life, works and remarkably potent fame. Here is my previous preview post about it. 

Canongate Books Ltd, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1847672940 

Literature and Dance in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Jane Austen to the New Woman (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture), by Cheryl A. Wilson (2009)Literature and Dance in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Jane Austen to the New Womanby Cheryl A. Wilson 

We all know that Henry Tilney considers “a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.” Enuff said. Jane Austen loved dancing herself and included many scenes in her novels with characters engaged in this important social communion. If one understands the dance and its significance in 18th and 19th century society, then you are in a fair way to understanding love. From the publishers website: Literary critics often pursue analyses of music or painting and literature as ‘sister arts’, yet this is the first full-length study of the treatment of social dance in literature. A vital part of social life and courtship with its own symbolism, dance in the nineteenth century was a natural point of interest for novelists writing about these topics; and indeed ballroom scenes could themselves be used to further courtship narratives or illustrate other significant encounters. Including analyses of works by Jane Austen, W. M. Thackeray, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope, as well as extensive material from nineteenth-century dance manuals, Cheryl A. Wilson shows how dance provided a vehicle through which writers could convey social commentary and cultural critique on issues such as gender, social mobility, and nationalism. 

Cambridge University Press, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0521519090 

Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love, by Dr. Andrew Norman (2009)Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love, by Dr. Andrew Norman 

Well, this shall certainly raise a few eyebrows! Dr. Andrew Norman has conducted a bit of Austen romance sleuthing. Touted as “The first book to reveal the identity of the mystery lover Jane Austen met in Devon in 1802,” we have read an excerpt that did not reveal who it is, but it looked promising, at least in the light of a good mystery. From the publishers website: Jane Austen is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in the English literary canon, and recent film and television adaptations of her works have brought them to a new audience almost two hundred years after her untimely death. Yet much remains unknown about her life, and there is considerable interest in the romantic history of the creator of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Andrew Norman here presents a new account of her life, breaking new ground by proposing that she and her sister, Cassandra, fell out over a young clergyman, who he identities for the first time. He also suggests that, along with the Addison’s Disease that killed her, Jane Austen suffered from TB. Written by a consummate biographer, Jane Austen: an Unrequited Love is a must-read for all lovers of the author and her works. 

Hardcover, The History Press, ISBN: 978-0752448749 

Jane Austen’s Narrative Techniques: A Stylistic and Pragmatic Analysis, by Massimiliano Morini 

It is a truth universally acknowledge that Jane Austen can put a sentence together like no other, so if you are curious how she does it so eloquently, you might enjoy this scholarly treatise that delves into the linguistic and narrative techniques of her style. For serious scholars, we are quite certain that linguistics Prof Henry Higgins Churchyard, creator of the Jane Austen Information Page will be enthralled. From the publishers website: Examining a wide range of Austen texts, from her unpublished works through masterpieces like Mansfield Park and Emma, Morini discusses familiar Austen themes, using linguistic means to shed fresh light on the question of point of view in Austen and on Austen’s much-admired brilliance in creating lively and plausible dialogue. Accessibly written and informed by the latest work in linguistic and literary studies, Jane Austen’s Narrative Techniques offers Austen specialists a new avenue for understanding her narrative techniques and serves as a case study for scholars and students of pragmatics and applied linguistics. 

Ashgate Publishing, Hardcover, ISBN: 978-0754666073 

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired) 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith (2009)Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith 

The Internet frenzy that the announcement of this novel created may have been a huge surprise to us all, including its author and publisher, but it has caught the imagination of the public, who must be hungry for this kind of fare. Get ready to experience Pride and Prejudice as you have never read it before, resplendent with bone crunching zombie mayhem and ninja warriors. Oh dear. We all know that Elizabeth Bennet does not mind a bit of mud on her petticoat, but blood and brain matter might be a bit too much for propriety to bear.  Read my previous preview post here. Publisher’s description: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations, this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans. 

Quirk Books, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1594743344 

Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worse, by Kathryn L. Nelson (2009)Pemberley Manor: Darcy and Elizabeth, for better or for worse, by Kathryn L. Nelson 

In this new continuation of Pride and Prejudice after the nuptials, we are given an intimate view of Darcy and Lizzy as newlyweds at Pemberley, and a haunting discovery of skeletons in the closet. Read my review here. Publisher’s description: How does “happily ever after” really work? As marriage brings an end to a romantic tale, it begins a new story: how does “happily ever after” really work? While Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley might be expected to get on famously, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy will surely need to work on their communication skills. What forces in Darcy’s past would give such a good man so difficult a public demeanor? The author posits an imaginative family background for Darcy from which he would have inherited his sense of social superiority and duty to the family name. When Darcy reverts to type, will Elizabeth’s stubborn optimism win the day after the honeymoon is over? While they say that opposites attract, how long can Lizzy and Darcy’s fundamentally different personalities get along without friction? Can they learn to understand each other? Can their love prevail over the inevitable clashes? 

Sourcebooks Landmark, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402218521 

The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer (2009)The Nonesuch, by Georgette Heyer 

Sourcebooks continues on their quest to re-issue all of Georgette Heyer’s beloved novels with one of her better known Regency era romances. This engaging story presents finding love at any age as we are introduced to the mature Sir Waldo Hawkridge, whose reputation as a ‘Nonesuch’ precedes him. When an inheritance includes a property in Yorkshire, he travels there and meets Tiffany Wield, a spoiled and selfish heiress and her far more appealing older companion, Ancilla Trent. Along for the ride in this Regency era comedy of manners is Sir Waldo’s young cousin, Lord Lindeth, who is a bit of neighborhood Casanova, falling in and out of love on a whim. When Miss Wield’s bad behavior culminates in a flight to London, Miss Trent entreats Sir Waldo’s help to retrieve her wayward charge before her reputation is ruined. He in turn must convince her that it is not above her station as a governess to fall in love with him. 

Sourcebooks, Casablanca, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-1402217708   

Cotillion (Popular Classics) Naxos Audio Book, By Georgette Heyer (2009)Cotillion (Popular Classics) Naxos Audio Book, by Georgette Heyer, read by Claire Willie 

I am so encouraged that Naxos Audiobooks is venturing into Heyerland with their first audio recording of one of Georgette Heyer’s most beloved novels Cotillion, considered one of the greatest Regency romances of all time. Up until this new recording, Heyer audios could only be obtained through sources in England, at astronomical prices. This abridged audio is read by Clare Willie and contains four CD’s. Hopefully, if it sells well, they will in future bring us additional unabridged versions. Publisher’s description: Young Kitty Charing stands to inherit a vast fortune from her irascible great-uncle Matthew–provided she marries one of her cousins. Kitty is not wholly adverse to the plan, if the right nephew proposes. Unfortunately, Kitty has set her heart on Jack Westruther, a confirmed rake, who seems to have no inclination to marry her anytime soon. In an effort to make Jack jealous, and to see a little more of the world than her isolated life on her great-uncle’s estate has afforded her, Kitty devises a plan. She convinces yet another of her cousins, the honorable Freddy Standen, to pretend to be engaged to her. Her plan would bring her to London on a visit to Freddy’s family and (hopefully) render the elusive Mr. Westruther madly jealous. Thus begins Cotillion, arguably the funniest, most charming of Georgette Heyer’s many delightful Regency romances. 

Naxos Audiobooks, Abridged audio CD’s, ISBN: 978-9626348970 

Austen’s Oeuvre 

Pride and Prejudice (Naxos Young Adult Classics), by Jane Austen, read by Jenny Agutter (2009)Pride and Prejudice (Naxos Young Adult Classics), by Jane Austen, read by Jenny Agutter 

This abridged audio recording of Pride and Prejudice read by English actress Jenny Agutter also includes impressive selection of extras as a great introduction to young students. Publisher’s description: “Pride and Prejudice” is a key title for the new Naxos AudioBooks series “Young Adult Classics”. An abridged recording with music makes this Regency novel much more accessible to the 21st century young adult keen to get to grips with the classics. “Pride and Prejudice” is a leading title for “Young Adult Classics”, being one of the pillars of English Literature, and Jenny Agutter’s friendly reading bridges the gap between the films and the book. This edition includes a bonus CD-ROM which contains the abridged and unabridged texts, and Top Teacher’s Notes by high profile English teacher Francis Gilbert. 

Naxos Audiobooks, Audio CD’s, ISBN: 978-9626349571 

Austen’s Contemporaries  

Samuel Johnson: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (2009)Samuel Johnson: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) 

Some scholars believe that Samuel Johnson, above all other writers, had the greatest influence on Jane Austen’s writing. Her family declared in later biographies that Johnson was her “favourite author in prose.” This extensive collection of his works tops out at a whopping 880 pages, so if you are inspired to know who influenced Austen the most, I would say it is a must read. Publisher’s description: Samuel Johnson’s literary reputation rests on such a varied output that he defies easy description: poet, critic, lexicographer, travel writer, essayist, editor, and, thanks to his good friend Boswell, the subject of one of the most famous English biographies. This volume celebrates Johnson’s astonishing talent by selecting widely across the full range of his work. It includes “London” and “The Vanity of Human Wishes” among other poems, and many of his essays for the Rambler and Idler. The prefaces to his edition of Shakespeare and his famous Dictionary, together with samples from the texts, are given, as well as selections from A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, the Lives of the Poets, and Rasselas in its entirety. There is also a substantial representation of lesser-known prose, and of his poetry, letters, and journals. 

Oxford University Press, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-0199538331 

Mary and The Wrongs of Woman (Oxford Worlds Classics), by Mary Wollstonecraft (2009)Mary and The Wrongs of Woman (Oxford Worlds Classics) , by Mary Wollstonecraft 

Even though Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft were contemporaries, we have no evidence (that I am aware of) from her letters or family memoirs that she read her works. Scholars like to think she did. I find this a bit amusing. What they do share in common is the belief that women are equal to men in many ways. This edition could shed some light of the possibility of Austen’s subliminal feminist thinking by her characters. Publisher’s description: Mary Wollstonecraft is best known for her pioneering views on the rights of women to share equal rights and opportunities with men. They are expressed here in two novels in which heroines have to rely on their own resources to establish their independence and intellectual development. Strongly autobiographical, both novels powerfully complement Wollstonecraft’s non-fictional writing, inspired by the French Revolution and the social upheavals that followed. New to this edition is a completely rewritten introduction that incorporates the latest scholarship and features a consideration of the social formation of Wollstonecraft as a Revolutionary feminist and her literary-political career, as well as a critical account of the two novels. A new bibliography includes all the latest critical writing on Wollstonecraft, while heavily revised notes link her fiction to her extensive reading, her other writings and major events and issues of the day. In addition, the text has been completely reset, making it easier on the eyes. It is by far the highest quality edition available, and a great choice for readers interested in pre-Victorian literature and feminist history. 

Oxford University Press, Trade paperback, ISBN: 978-0199538904 

Austen Ephemera & Fun 

So You Think You Know Jane Austen?: A Literary Quizbook (Oxford Worlds Classics), by John Sutherland & Deirdre Le Faye (2009)So You Think You Know Jane Austen?: A Literary Quizbook (Oxford Worlds Classics), by John Sutherland & Deirdre Le Faye 

In this fun and challenging re-issue of the ultimate Jane Austen quiz, Austen authorities Le Faye and Sutherland challenge your Austen knowledge with engaging questions on her life and works brimming facts and trivia. Publisher’s description: How well do you really know your favorite author? In this reissue of the 2005 edition, ace literary detective turned quizmaster John Sutherland and Austen buff Deirdre Le Faye challenge you to find out. Starting with easy, factual questions that test how well you remember a novel and its characters, the quiz progresses to a level of greater difficulty, demanding close reading and interpretative deduction. What really motivates the characters, and what is going on beneath the surface of the story? Designed to amuse and divert, the questions and answers take the reader on an imaginative journey into the world of Jane Austen, where hypothesis and speculation produce fascinating and unexpected insights. The questions are ingenious and fun, and the answers (located in the back of the book), in Sutherland’s inimitable style, are fascinating. Completing the book guarantees a hugely improved knowledge and appreciation of Austen. Whether you are an expert or enthusiast, So You Think You Know Jane Austen? guarantees you will know her much better after reading it. 

Oxford University Press, Trade paperback, 978-0199538997 

Until next month, happy reading! 

Laurel Ann

Preview – Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman (2009)Arriving in the post yesterday was a new Jane Austen biography/cultural history for my review consideration; Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. Right off the top – I love the title of this book! It totally proclaims that Jane Austen HAS conquered the world, and I am just fine with that. 

I read about this book months ago on author Claire Harman’s website. I am a fan of her pervious book Fanny Bruney: A Biography (2001), and when I learned that she was writing a biography and cultural history of Jane Austen I knew that it would be top on my list of Austen inspired new releases for this year. I have been anticipating its arrival for some time and am eager to dive in. Here is a publicity blurb from the publisher Canongate Books as a teaser. 

Award winning biographer and Oxford and Columbia University Professor Claire Harman traces the growth of Jane Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for – or has been made to stand for in the English culture. – in a wide-ranging study aimed at the general reader. 

This is a story of personal struggle, family intrigue, accident, advocacy and sometimes surprising neglect as well as a history of changing public tastes and critical practices. Starting with Austen’s own experience as a beginning author (and addressing her difficulties getting published and her determination to succeed), Harman unfolds the history of how her estate was handled by her brother, sister, nieces and nephews, and goes on to explore the eruption of public interest in Austen in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the making of her into a classic English author in the twentieth century, the critical wars that erupted as a result and, lastly, her powerful influence on contemporary phenomena such as chick-lit, romantic comedy, the heritage industry and film. The first book about Jane Austen to dissect the industry around her, it is a completely original approach to one of Britain’s most enduring popular novelist. 

Part biography and part cultural history, this book does not just tell a fascinating story – it is essential reading for anyone interested in Austen’s life, works and remarkably potent fame. 

Beside the beautiful cover artwork, a quick perusal through the text and index revealed that Harman’s research encompasses Austen’s rise to fame from the beginnings to the very recent Pride and Prejudice adaptation/parody Lost in Austen. Mentioned in her fanbase are Internet sites and blogs such as The Republic of Pemberley, AustenBlog, Jane Austen’s World, Jane Austen Today; — and gentle readers, I had to get the smelling salts out after reading Austenprose  listed on page 276 as ‘particularly prolific and engaged.’ Blush!!! 

Regardless of the mention, I am anxious to read this book and shall tear into it after rearranging my reading schedule to move it up. I look forward to reviewing it which should be posted prior to it’s official release date in the UK of 02 April 2009. There is a listing for it at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but no pre-ordering available yet.  That should change in the next week or so I assume and will check with the publisher on US availability. You can preorder it through AmazonUK now.

Anyway, a red letter day for my postbox and my blog! In addition to my joy – anyone lucky enough to live in Bath, near Bath, or want to travel to Bath can catch Claire Harman on April 24th, at the Topping & Company Booksellers for a talk and book signing. Pea green you lucky ducks! Maybe we could convince Jane Odiwe to attend as an online Austen fanbase emissary!?!