Jane Austen: A Life

Jane Austen: A Life

by Carol Shields


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143035169
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/31/2005
Series: Penguin Lives Ser.
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 661,904
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Carol Shields (1935-2003) is the author of The Stone Diaries, which won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Canada's Governor General's Award. Her other novels and short-story collections include The Republic of Love, Happenstance, Swann, The Orange Fish, Various Miracles, The Box Garden, and Small Ceremonies (all available from Penguin).


Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Date of Birth:

June 2, 1935

Date of Death:

July 16, 2003

Place of Birth:

Oak Park, Illinois

Place of Death:

Toronto, Canada


B.A., Hanover College, Indiana; M.A. (English), Ottawa University, 1975

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Jane Austen 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Isabelloftusussher More than 1 year ago
Carol Shields brings a novelist's sensitive understanding to a sister writer, and the results are illuminating, refreshing, and thoughtful. The book is well-informed and also eloquent and absorbing. No matter how many times one has read Jane Austen--or planned to do so--this book opens up the novels with the familiar newly conceived and appreciated. I recommend this book to scholars, students, and general readers alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read all of Austen's novels, her letters, seen most of the film adaptations, and have also read many bios and critical essays on her work. I found Shield's book a very enjoyable read -as opposed to less accessible academic material. Sheild's made the author, her family, and her world come alive! I would recommend this book to Austen fans of every age. It is too bad the world lost both Austen and Shields all too soon!
RandyMetcalfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One imagines a sensitive novelist of particularity, such as Carol Shields, measuring herself in the process of writing this short literary biography of Jane Austen. For what better measure might there be? Now two hundred years since their initial publication, Austen¿s novels continue to delight and surprise. Writing in obscurity away from the bustle of the writerly world of ¿workshops¿, ¿MFAs¿, ¿public readings¿, ¿writer circles¿, and ¿literary festivals¿, without the input of her literary contemporaries, without the lucrative compensation of a hefty advance or a well-publicised book tour, with only the modest praise and encouragement of family and a few close friends, Jane Austen made the novel form her own. Shields strikes precisely the right tone here ¿ respectful. Shields¿ prose is crisp and insightful, with just enough facts drawn from Austen¿s correspondence and other sources to gently move the along the progress of her life, whilst keeping the focus where it ought to always be, on Austen¿s texts. A literary biography succeeds when the reader finishes it and wants immediately to immerse himself or herself in the subject¿s texts. Reader, the desire to plunge headlong into a rereading of each of Austen¿s novels is nearly irresistible. Delightfully recommended.
juglicerr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read about seven biographies of Jane Austen, and this would be the one that I recommend that anyone read first. It pretty much sums up all that is really known about Austen's life and avoids the usual hazards of wild speculation and dubious reinterpretation. It does not desperately attempt to break new ground but considers the presentation of a solid, readable account of the subject's life as sufficient grounds for its existence. This is not to say that I accept everything that Shields says, but she does a commendable job.There is one serious problem with this biography but I believe that it is the decision of the publisher, not the author. There is almost nothing in the way of documentation: bibliographies, sources, notes. I do like the books that I have read in this series as a good introduction to the various people covered, and as far as I can tell, they are reliable, but one has to trust Penquin's reputation. They are not scholarly.I would recommend that the reader next consider David Cecil's Portrait of Jane Austen or Josephine Ross' Jane Austen: A Companion, or Debra Teachman's Understanding Pride and Prejudice: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (The Greenwood Press "Literature in Context" Series), as a look at the author in context of her time. Ross' book has a nice selected bibliography of different types of Jane Austen studies and Teachman has extensive bibliographies of specialized topics. The recent movie, Becoming Jane, was inspired by Jon Spence's Becoming Jane Austen; I enjoyed both book and movie,The interested reader should also realize that there are a variety of "specialty" books that focus on narrow topics. Nigel Nicolson and Stephen Colover's The World of Jane Austen: Her Houses in Fact and Fiction focuses on houses and places she lived in or visited; Audrey Hawkridge's Jane and Her Gentlemen: Jane Austen and the Men in Her Life and Novels considers the men in JA's life versus the men in her novels.As for the other biographies that I have read by Tomalin, Nokes, Park, etc., one can get a lot of additional detail about the life of a typical woman of Austen's class, as well as trivia such as the weather around the time of her birth (Make no mistake, I LOVE such details) but the books are often weighted down with pretentiousness, unfounded speculation, doubtful agendas and side interests of the authors. By all means, I recommend them to people with an intense interest in Jane Austen, but not for the person who just wants context for her writings.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a fellow novelist, author Carol Shields brings a unique perspective to her biography of Jane Austen. In the first chapter, Shields writes: Traditionally Jane Austen's biographers have nailed together the established facts of her life--her birth, her travels, her enthusiasms, her death--and clothed this rickety skeleton with speculation gleaned from the novels, an exercise akin to ransacking an author's bureau drawers and drawing conclusions from piles of neatly folded handkerchiefs or worn gloves. In so doing, the assumption is made that fiction flows directly from a novelist's experience rather than from her imagination. While Shields then goes on to glean speculation from Austen's novels, she does so through the lens of a writer who knows how inspiration functions and who may therefore be able to discern the line between experience and imagination in Austen's works. Readers don't need to be Jane Austen experts, but do need a basic familiarity with her novels. While this isn't a work for scholars (there are no footnotes/endnotes), it isn't an introduction, either. Warmly recommended to Austen readers.
daisiflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Was a good biography of Jane Austens life. Fast read as well.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This slim biography of Jane Austen provides some insights into the famed author's life, but I was left wishing it provided more detail.
msbaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read Carol Shields¿ biography Jane Austen for two reasons: first, because I knew about and admired the biographer; and second, because I hoped that reading a biography about Jane Austen would help me better comprehend and appreciate her novels. Don¿t get me wrong; I enjoy reading Jane Austen. I am just not as crazy about her as many bright, highly educated women I know. When I heard that Carol Shields, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Stone Diaries had written a highly acclaimed biography of Austen, I jumped at the chance to reeducate myself. In the beginning Shields asks many questions. ¿How does art emerge? How does art come from common clay, in this case a vicar¿s self-educated daughter, all but buried in rural Hampshire? Who was she really? And who exactly is her art designed to please? One person? Two or three? Or an immense, wide, and unknown audience that buzzes with an altered frequency through changing generations, its impact subtly augmented in the light of newly evolved tastes and values?¿ (p. 5-6) Throughout the biography, Shields does an amazingly delightful and scholarly job of exploring these themes. In the end, she states: ¿What is known of Jane Austen¿s life will never be enough to account for the greatness of her novels, but the point of literary biography is to throw light on a writer¿s works, rather than combing the works to re-create the author.¿ (p.175) Obviously, this was Shields¿ intent, and in this reviewer¿s estimation, she succeeds completely. This biography was an absolute joy to read. It is short—under 200 pages. I read it in one sitting, never once feeling that the details overwhelmed. My interest never faded. Now, I find myself thinking about the many vivid characters in Austen¿s novels and wanting to read them again in a new light. It has been over twenty years since I last read any of Austen¿s books, so detailed familiarity with her novels is not a prerequisite to understanding this biography or finding pleasure in its remarkable insights. Shields is an extraordinary author in her own right. Her prose is clear, articulate, creative, often fun, and always on the mark. It is clear that she has a keen appreciation for Jane Austen¿s literary style and a deep desire to understand the woman who created these magical works or art. I am enthusiastic after reading this biography and recommend it highly to anyone who wants a better appreciation of Austen, her person, her period, and her novels.
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