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

The Real Jane Austen : A Life in Small Things Paperback

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 paperback of the landmark biography, bestselling biographer Paula Byrne uses objects that conjure up a key moment in Austen's life and work - a silhouette, a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a writing box, a royalty cheque, a bathing machine, and many more - to unlock the biography of this most beloved author.

The woman who emerges is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of 'dear aunt Jane' allows.

Byrne's lively book explores the many forces that shaped Austen's life, her long struggle to become a published author, and brings Miss Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Biography: literary
  • ISBN: 9780007358342



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I have never really been a big Austen fan, which along with my relative indifference to Shakespeare and Chaucer when I began my first degree reaaaally made other lit students look at me askance. I still think that those three are pushed upon us to a ridiculous degree, and often its not even their best work that is touted as The Book To Read (for example, I favour <I>Troilus and Criseyde</i> over <I>The Canterbury Tales</i>, and pretty much anything over <I>Romeo and Juliet</i>). But anyway, I've slowly come to appreciate them a little bit more, which will probably horrify my mother (at least where Austen is concerned). Sorry, Mum.Paula Byrne's biography of Jane Austen is quite a common sense one. Instead of looking first to her fiction and then trying to extrapolate out to her life, it looks at the objects that surrounded her or inspired her and teases out things from there. I'm not really a scholar of the period in any sense, so I can't speak as to the accuracy of it, but it reads well and I appreciated this view of Jane Austen as a practical, witty and determined woman, fully supported by her family and with no doubts about her chosen course in life. It debunks ideas like the picture some people have of her being very sheltered and not in contact with the world, putting us in touch with the politics she would have been aware of and the places she went. It has some nice inserts with some of the objects mentioned pictured in colour.I'm not keeping this book, but I'm certainly donating it to my library -- I know that someone who is more of an Austen fan than me will doubtless appreciate it even more, and I'm willing to bet there's a member of even our tiny little library who fits the bill.

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