From the Publisher
"An entertaining and readable biography... Plentiful photos and sketches of family friends and estates Austen visited.... Engaging, well-researched, serious introduction."Booklist
"Le Faye shows connections between real and fictional people and places while imparting a clear sense of what life was like.... The illustrations, most in full color, are a plus: a well-chosen mix of contemporary portraits, reproductions of manuscripts and letters (including Austen's first rejection), street scenes, and maps.... Authoritative."Kirkus Reviews
"An entertaining and readable biography... Plentiful photos and sketches of family friends and estates Austen visited, in both black-and-white and color, help set the scene.... High-school students studying Austen's work will do well to begin with this engaging, well-researched, serious introduction."Booklist
"Le Faye shows connections between real and fictional people and places while imparting a clear sense of what life was like in the circles of local gentry through which Austen moved. The illustrations, most in full color, are a plus: a well-chosen mix of contemporary portraits, reproductions of manuscripts and letters (including Austen's first rejection), street scenes, and maps.... The volume is concise, serviceable, and authoritative."Kirkus Reviews
"Le Faye...uses her intimate knowledge of the [Austen] archives to provide a detailed...account of Austen and her social circle."Hungry Mind Review
The weakness of this biography is that Le Faye's narrative ability does not equal her research skills. She has painstakingly recreated Austen's travels and movements, along with the pertinent activities of Austen's closest friends and relatives, and has even provided readers with a copious assortment of names, dates and places. This is rich material, but the reader wishes these elements could be connected as part of a story, and less a recitation of fact. Yet one suspects that to accomplish this with any degree of satisfaction would take the skill of, well, Jane Austen.
The biographies of these two incredible women writers reflect the society in which they lived as well as their personal lives. Jane Austen died in 1817 and would never know the works of Charlotte Brontë. Born in 1816, Charlotte was familiar with Austen's works. She was not an Austen fan and commented when asked: "the Passions are perfectly unknown to her." It is likely that Jane might have found Charlotte's novels much too dark. Much of Charlotte's life can be found through her letters. Several of her letters and excerpts from them have been scanned into the pages of this biography. It is always interesting to see the quality of a writer's penmanship and how it frequently reflects the speed of their thoughts or their emotional state. When Charlotte worked on Jane Eyre her father was recovering from painful eye surgery and both were trying to recover from the tragic loss of their other family members (sisters Emily and Anne and brother Branwell.) She said she wrote as if she was obsessed and the writing was a comfort to her. Both Jane and Charlotte were daughters of curates and early on showed signs of promise in their writing. Unlike Charlotte, Jane wrote few letters, though some are included here, and she kept no journals. Our insights into Jane's life and character are based on witness descriptions and her own novels. Unlike Charlotte, Jane did not have to worry about financial security. Jane's penmanship is strong, even and lovely, reflecting a certain care and time with her writing. The British Library Writers' Lives series is always outstanding in terms of illustration and information. They have published biographies on Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf and William Wordsworth, toname a few. These two books are a further testament to their excellent quality and attention to research. Each book offers a biographical chronology and a useful index. With an abundance of colorful graphics and useful side notes, there is a wealth of information presented. There is no question that both of these biographies would be useful reference books for any YA library and definitely excellent selections for public library use. (The British Library Writers' Lives) KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Oxford Univ. Press, 124p, illus, bibliog, index, 24cm, $15.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Sally M. Tibbetts; Audio Visual/LRC, Main West H.S., Des Plaines, IL, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
VOYA - Marlyn Roberts
With the recent release of films and television series based on her novels (Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Pride and Prejudice), Jane Austen has become something of a sensation. Not bad for someone who would have celebrated her 123rd birthday last December. In the wake of this resurgence in Austen's popularity have come some new biographies. Jane Austen is the latest entry in Oxford's new The British Library: Writers' Lives series (which so far consists of the Austen volume and one about Charlotte Brontë). Le Faye is well informed about Austen, having edited Jane Austen's Letters (Oxford University Press, 1995). The story is narrated in a novelistic style, suitable for non-readers interested in learning more about Austen. The book includes many photographs of Jane's house at Chawton as it is today, as well as drawings and paintings from Austen's time. It concludes with a chronology and a further reading list. Too recently published to be included in Le Faye's reading list is A Jane Austen Encyclopedia. This book is more of a reference work than Le Faye's. It has three (yes, three) chronologies: The first is a chronology of Austen's life and works, followed by chronology of history that would have affected Austen, and finally, a similar literary chronology. The middle section of the book, an encyclopedia of Austen's life and works, should prove useful for the essay-writing student, including Jane's relatives, detailed descriptions of characters from her novels, and plot summaries of the novels. The third section contains bibliographies of Austen's works, of books and pamphlets about her, and essays about her. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Further Reading. Chronology. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
This entry in the British Library Writers' Lives series begins with an admission that a paucity of documentary evidence puts Austen "a bit beyond camera range." Le Faye composes a tale of family and friends, births and marriages, and comings and goings that, but for its lack of romantic plot line, is itself Austen-like. The cast is a large one, and readers may tire of all the names, but, where she can, Le Faye shows connections between real and fictional people and places while imparting a clear sense of what life was like in the circles of local gentry through which Austen moved. The illustrations, most in full-color, are a plus: a well-chosen mix of contemporary portraits, reproductions of manuscripts and letters (including Austen's first rejection), street scenes, and maps. This is likely to be dry work for readers unfamiliar with the novels, but even if diverting anecdotes are rare, the volume is concise, serviceable, and authoritative. (further reading, chronology, index) (Biography. 12+)