For Janeites, The Life and Times of the World’s Favourite Author by Charles Jennings is a quick, easy and delightful read and for a nerdy generalist such as myself and a history major of eons past, I loved this book. I loved it. It was short, to the point, full of information and nicely formatted into four easy sections: Jane’s life, her novels, the time in which she lived and the Jane franchise ie., movies, tv dramas, more books, more films etc.
I loved the essay section that discusses all of her works and its progression from Jane as a young writer to the mature woman. The section about her life was interesting and it reminded me (not that I really needed it) of the intelligence of women and in Jane’s case an unexpected woman, plain, beautiful, thoughtful, observant, funny, master craftswoman who was a meticulous chronicler of her times – although nobody suspected her of knowing anything she brilliantly portrayed the intricacies of 19th century Regency social life with wit and candour. I loved it. Who cares about war and politics!
I also really loved the “life and times” piece which talked about life during Jane’s life time. The discomforts of the barouche, the card games, dinners (sometimes 15 courses) the drinking (lots of it), the muslin dresses, the expectations of women (be entertaining) the roadways (no passenger train until 1823 – good luck), the wild sexuality of a dance such as the waltz and finally the reality of women – either married or unmarried, it’s a world with few choices. What really stands out is her relevance. She still resonates, we want to read Jane, feel and be a part of her world. Why? Partly because she writes about people and we all understand that kind of a story. What a great summer read. Time to reread a few of my Austen favourites and get Collin Firth queued up for my next Pride and Prejudice marathon viewing.
- Jane Austen is not that soothing | John Mullan (guardian.co.uk)
- Lady Susan by Jane Austen (onereaderathousandlives.wordpress.com)