Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

Overview

Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen. 

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, ...

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Jane Austen: A Life Revealed

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Overview

Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen. 

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed. Includes bibliography and index.

 

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Reef beefs up what little is known about Austen's life by blending in social history and substantial descriptions of her novels. While the author's writing style is clear and unaffected, the book lacks organization. The text jumps from topic to topic, sometimes within the same paragraph, all without the benefit of headings and subheadings. For example, Jane and Cassandra's friendship with Martha and Mary Lloyd, Mary's attack of smallpox, smallpox statistics in general, symptoms, the side effects that Mary experienced, and the Lloyds' relationship to the Fowles family are covered in that order in three paragraphs. Reef includes extensive source notes and a selected bibliography. Still, there is at least one major factual error. Early in the book, Reef writes, "No one knows Jane Austen's views on religion…." In truth, there are dozens of references to Austen's strong Christian beliefs in letters she wrote and in things that other people wrote about her. Also, she wrote at least three long, characteristically eloquent prayers. Flashes of bias show up, too. When Reef describes a time when Austen learned the news that she had to move from her home, she writes, "Anyone would assume that Jane wrote to Cassandra right away…." Later, Reef refers to Austen's assessment of a sick niece as "cold-hearted." Occasional black-and-white illustrations are lackluster. Consider Juliane Locke's England's Jane: The Story of Jane Austen (Morgan Reynolds, 2005) instead.—Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Library, NC
From the Publisher
a JLG selection

"Along with extensive details of Austen’s family. . .Reef deftly sets the biographical facts onto a larger cultural and historical canvas that will give readers a much deeper understanding of Austen’s novels, and well-chosen images, from period paintings and photos to contemporary film stills, add even more context."—Booklist, starred review

"Perhaps this work will lead readers to Jane Austen and imaginatively apply the facts of the author's life to the novels—or vice-versa."—Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Maryland author Catherine Reef has done a remarkable job of collecting and synthesizing the little that is known about Jane Austen into an intriguing biography. Teens who scorn what they term the whiny, first-person protagonists of contemporary YA fiction embrace Austen's witty take on early 19th century English society. These readers will relish Reef's peek at the iconic author who brought forth such delicious classics as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Reef chronicles Austen's short life (she died in 1817 at the age of 41) and explores important relationships, especially the author's deep friendship with her sister Cassandra. Reef also examines Austen's writing process, provides short descriptions of her six novels and opens each chapter with a snippet of her writing, giving a sense of Austen's pithy voice and style. Period illustrations, paintings and movie stills of the many Hollywood versions of Austen's books help readers to connect both with the author's times and with her literary legacy. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
ALAN Review - Katie Harris
Devoted Austen fans rejoice; a new biography by Catherine Reef pieces together the life of "gentle Aunt Jane." Little is known of Austen's life, and many of her letters are missing due to the efforts of family and friends to censor the way Jane would be remembered in history. Reef attempts to paint a fuller picture of Jane's life within the context of Austen's time and culture, allowing the reader to search for the connections between a single woman dubbed an "old maid" and the novels she became so famous for creating. This text contains fascinating primary accounts from Austen's family members and acquaintances as well as family portraits, original letters, and cultural pieces from the time period. This biography will make the reader want to pick up his or her old copy of Pride and Prejudice once more and discover again why Austen continues to find devotees with each new century. Reviewer: Katie Harris
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Reef beefs up what little is known about Austen's life by blending in social history and substantial descriptions of her novels. While the author's writing style is clear and unaffected, the book lacks organization. The text jumps from topic to topic, sometimes within the same paragraph, all without the benefit of headings and subheadings. For example, Jane and Cassandra's friendship with Martha and Mary Lloyd, Mary's attack of smallpox, smallpox statistics in general, symptoms, the side effects that Mary experienced, and the Lloyds' relationship to the Fowles family are covered in that order in three paragraphs. Reef includes extensive source notes and a selected bibliography. Still, there is at least one major factual error. Early in the book, Reef writes, "No one knows Jane Austen's views on religion…." In truth, there are dozens of references to Austen's strong Christian beliefs in letters she wrote and in things that other people wrote about her. Also, she wrote at least three long, characteristically eloquent prayers. Flashes of bias show up, too. When Reef describes a time when Austen learned the news that she had to move from her home, she writes, "Anyone would assume that Jane wrote to Cassandra right away…." Later, Reef refers to Austen's assessment of a sick niece as "cold-hearted." Occasional black-and-white illustrations are lackluster. Consider Juliane Locke's England's Jane: The Story of Jane Austen (Morgan Reynolds, 2005) instead.—Jennifer Prince, Buncombe County Public Library, NC
Kirkus Reviews
It is either daring or foolish—or both—to use the subtitle, "A Life Revealed," when the biographer states that little is known about the biographee. It is true that much is known about Jane Austen's novels now, thanks to films, adaptations and television specials, "[b]ut very little is known about the woman herself." Of the thousands of letters she wrote, only 139 survive, the rest destroyed for reasons unknown. She was a writer but left no diaries. What is a biographer to do to fill in the many, many lacunae? Provide whatever information is available about cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers, father, mother, nephews—all of which can become confusing without a Venn diagram. Then...give plot summations of Austen's novels. Those who have read the books or seen the films—the book's likely audience—may not need these book reports, which take up a sizable portion of the biography. Reef's histories of Austen's travels and her observations of Georgian society and its movements nicely delineate the settings and people her subject used as material, and Austen's sometimes acerbic comments about her characters help enliven the explications of the novels. Illustrations are mostly from movies and early-20th-century editions as well as portraits. Perhaps this work will lead readers to Jane Austen and imaginatively apply the facts of the author's life to the novels—or vice-versa. (afterword, family trees, notes, selected bibliography, index) (Biography. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547370217
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/6/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 979,336
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 1090L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Reef is author of more than 40 nonfiction books for young people. Her award-winning books for Clarion include several biographies, among them Ernest Hemingway: A Writer's Life, E.E. Cummings: A Poet's Life, and Sigmund Freud: Pioneer of the Mind, all of which received starred reviews and numerous other accolades. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Family Tree viii

1 Gentle Aunt Jane? 1

2 The Novelist Is Born 11

3 Love and Losses 33

4 Uprooted 50

5 An Extraordinary Fate 69

6 Light, Bright, and Sparkling 87

7 Vice and Virtue 103

8 "If I Live to Be an Old Woman …" 118

9 Lasting Words 136

Afterword: Our Own Jane Austen 151

Notes 157

Selected Bibliography 173

Jane Austen's Works 179

Picture Credits 181

Index 183

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A nice read for Jane Austen fans and people who want to enter that club.

    Jane Austen is one of my favourite classic authors, I enjoy her novels so much. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION are my two favourites. My love is easy to explain, because I simply show interest in time, customs, manners and the extraordinary ways of extraordinary characters to finding their love.

    JANE AUSTEN- A LIFE REVEALED is a biographical attempt to picture Jane Austen’s life, surroundings and novels. Catherine Reef presents the author, her family life and incorporates the books written by Austen into that timeline. It was highly interesting to learn more about Jane’s family and also typical difficulties about publishing in the 18th and 19th century.

    This novel has many information and details, to me mostly already known details and so rather boring sometimes. What I experienced as too long and unnecessary, could assist a reader not accustomed with Austen’s work to follow the novels and analysis of Austen’s work much easier. Catherine Reef gives detailed summaries of all of Jane Austen’s books. The analysis tough isn’t that detailed and insightful.

    JANE AUSTEN- A LIFE REVEALED interests with a profound index bibliography. In addition this novel has many pictures and additional information and material like original photographed pages of Austen’s letters to offer. The layout is lovely and convinces with many quotes. Also included are filmic references to Austen movie adaptations.

    The writing style isn’t that engaging, rather dry. It took me ages to read JANE AUSTEN- A LIFE REVEALED because I often got distracted or uninterested, but I still could find a good re-start when reading on.

    As JANE AUSTEN- A LIFE REVEALED is full of information about Jane Austen that are true and biographical. I shall only mention one reason why we love this book. We can’t get enough of Jane.

    THE VERDICT

    I give it 2,5/5 stars.

    JANE AUSTEN- A LIFE REVEALED is a good way to learn more about the famous author and her work.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 9, 2010

    ARC copy

    It's a very informative look at Jane Austen's life, an unbiased look. Reef doesn't try to tell you what she thinks Jane Austen was like, but rather asks questions, and tries to give insight into the kind of life Austen must have lived by depicting the period, and the manners of that time. like Women's status, and how ones manners and place in society really said everything. She also quotes family members when trying to describe Austen's character and looks, and in doing so showing how even reliable people, people who knew her still couldn't agree on some basic things. for example one niece said that aunt Jane had very long dark hair, and another said that she had brown curly hair. But they all agreed that the only picture that we have of her; the one made by her sister Cassandra looks nothing like her. I already knew a lot of the things written here, due to my love of Jane Austen and subsequent fascination with that period. But there were also a lot of things I didn't know; like how Jane had a disabled brother and they made him live separably away from the family. Which ruined the illusion that Jane had a romantic existence. I recommended this book to all Jane Austen lovers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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