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The Real Jane Austen


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About the Author

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead. Her first book, `Jane Austen and the Theatre', was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, `Perdita', was a Richard and Judy book-club pick and a best-seller. Her third, `Mad World:Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead' is `the fascinating story of a great house and a great family.' It was published to rave reviews in 2009 and was another best-seller. She is married to Jonathan Bate and lives in Oxford.


`The perfect companion to the novels ... Tremendous' Joanna Trollope, Sunday Telegraph`Brilliantly illuminating ... Its great merit is [that] by focusing on one thread or another of Austen's experience, Byrne allow us to grasp the richness of Austen's inner life' Guardian`A neat approach to biography, allowing Byrne to burrow deep beneath the surface of Austen's existence. The result is a delightful and engrossing portrait' Sunday Times`Byrne's essays add up to a fine appraisal of the novelist's environment, truly Austenish in the way they burrow into a sequestered and often secretive private world' Observer`A perceptive and energetic guide to Austen and her surroundings ... Byrne's critical study consists of a series of beautifully written, interrelated essays ... [her] style gives fresh charms to her subject matter. "The Real Jane Austen" is bold, fast-moving and accessible' Daily Telegraph`Engaging, compelling, a delightful and engrossing book. Of course we all know that the "real" Jane Austen will forever be a mystery, but most 21st century Janeites will adore this one. Byrne's passion is nothing if not persuasive' Sunday Times`What is fresh in Byrne's biographical approach is her use of a succession of contemporary objects that Austen owned, or that might be seen in intimate connection with her interests ... this adds an attractive immediacy to a well-known story ... Byrne's affectionate study paints a pleasingly lively picture of Austen's life' Independent`Brilliantly illuminating ... riveting. By focusing, chapter by chapter, on one thread or another of Austen's experience, Byrne allows us to grasp the richness of her inner life' Simon Callow, Guardian`The portrait of Austen that emerges is sparklingly multi-faceted, catching the light in intriguing ways ... her Jane is far less likely to go for a quiet walk in the garden than she is to be whisked into town in search of a velvet cushion, a necklace or a smart new dress' Irish Mail on Sunday

Byrne (Jane Austen and the Theatre) promises a novel addition to the body of scholarship on Jane Austen's life. Rather than taking a cradle-to-grave approach, Byrne begins each essay in this collection with an image and description of an object of particular importance to Austen, which leads into a discussion of how these items influenced her life and informed her work. This premise is stretched thin at some points-it is arguable whether a carriage, for example, ever profoundly affected Austen-but it is an engaging narrative technique and effectively persuades that Austen intentionally drew inspiration from life in order to add what was at that time an innovative realism and verisimilitude to her novels (e.g., a familiarity with the navy and life in India, noteworthy in someone generally considered a quiet spinster). Byrne contends Austen's authorial focus upon an object is a clue to readers that events of emotional importance are afoot. Less convincing are Byrne's arguments that other Austen biographers and Austen's own family were often mistaken about her character or writerly intentions. Verdict A rarer approach to deciphering the meaning of Austen's work through her life. Recommended for Austen fans, those committed to close reading, literature lovers, and those enthralled by discussions of authorial intention.-Megan Hodge, Chesterfield Cty. P.L., Richmond (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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