The Real Jane Austen : A Life in Small Things, Hardback

The Real Jane Austen : A Life in Small Things Hardback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books.

In this new biography, bestselling author Paula Byrne (author of Perdita, Mad World) explores the forces that shaped the interior life of Britain's most beloved novelist: her father's religious faith, her mother's aristocratic pedigree, her eldest brother's adoption, her other brothers' naval and military experiences, her relatives in the East and West Indies, her cousin who lived through the trauma of the French Revolution, the family's amateur theatricals, the female novelists she admired, her residence in Bath, her love of the seaside, her travels around England and her long struggle to become a published author.

Byrne uses a highly innovative technique whereby each chapter begins from an object that conjures up a key moment or theme in Austen's life and work-a silhouette, a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a laptop writing box, a royalty cheque, a bathing machine, and many more. The woman who emerges in this biography is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of 'dear Aunt Jane' would allow.

Published to coincide with the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice, this lively and scholarly biography brings Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 400 pages, illustrations
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: literary
  • ISBN: 9780007358328



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I hesitated for a while before buying this book as I feared yet another Janelite effort like the seemingly thousands spawned in the lake from which Colin Firth emerges in Andrew Davies' adaptation of P&P. I'm glad that I did get it because it is an excellent, oblique look at Austen - as the subtitle says: A Life in Small Things'. Byrne has married her close textual reading to an in-depth knowledge of the social history of the period and what is known of Austen and her family, and the result is an infinitely enriching, informative book with carefully selected illustrations. I particularly enjoyed the second chapter, The East Indian Shawl, with its brave unmarried girls setting out for the unknown in the hope of securing their futures. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

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