I want to start this review by saying that although I was slightly disappointed with this book, that’s more due to me thinking it was going to be something different based on the blurb I read on Goodreads, so don’t necessarily be swayed by the fact that I only gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.
If you’re looking for a detailed biography of Jane Austen and how her books came to be published and then well known, this book would be perfect, however I had thought that I was going to be reading more about Austen’s influence on the world so I was a bit disappointed when I was halfway through and it was still just a straight biography.
Saying that, however, I actually found the book fascinating and incredibly well researched. I love Jane Austen’s books, but I didn’t really know much about her history. Living so close to the Brontë museum means that I know a lot about the Brontë sisters, but I’ve never really read much about Jane Austen (preferring to read her books repeatedly instead).
Maybe it was fate that I checked this book out from the e-library so that I could read more about a woman who was clearly strong-willed and knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to put herself out there and do it. It’s such a shame that she didn’t receive the fame that she deserved during her lifetime, but this book does well at explaining the reasons behind that, and the meteoric rise in popularity of Austen in the last 150 years.
Her work was not without detractors, and one of the quotes from the book that stood out to me (for probably obvious reasons) was from Mark Twain:
“I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
I mean, come on Mark, don’t mince your words or anything!
The book was filled with quotes from admirers and detractors alike, and also quotes from Austen books and other biographies, adding to the feel that it was incredibly well researched and written by someone with a genuine appreciation for the author.
Towards the end of the book, we get more into what I was expecting from the book as a whole, showing Jane’s influence on modern day society and I genuinely did find it fascinating. I would probably have given this book more stars if it had been what I had expected, but it just dampened my opinion of it, but I would definitely recommend to any Janeites wanting to learn more about their beloved Austen!