Jane Austen at home A biography

Lucy Worsley

Book - 2017

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BIOGRAPHY/Austen, Jane
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New York : St. Martin's Press 2017.
First U.S. edition
Item Description
Subtitle taken from cover.
"First published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton, an Hachette UK company" --Title page verso.
Physical Description
387 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 333-340) and index.
Main Author
Lucy Worsley (author)
Review by New York Times Review

THE GENIUS OF JANE AUSTEN: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood, by Paula Byrne. (Harper Perennial, paper, $16.99.) Playwrights and actors who questioned and mocked social norms helped Austen learn to focus her material, make it amusing and give it critical punch, this insightful study shows. THE WIDOW NASH, by Jamie Harrison. (Counterpoint, $26.) This debut novel by Jim Harrison's daughter features a clever and adventurous protagonist who must determine what happened to her father's fortune after his suicide. On the run from her brutal ex-fiancé, his business partner, she leaves a cross-country train in Montana to remake herself as the widow Nash. THE UNDERGROUND RIVER, by Martha Conway. (Touchstone, $26.99.) In this suspenseful novel, a young seamstress for a theater company that travels the Ohio River on a flatboat becomes involved in ferrying infants born into bondage from one side of the river to the other. SCANDINAVIANS: In Search of the Soul of the North, by Robert Ferguson. (Overlook, $35.) Ferguson, a British expatriate who has lived for 30 years in Norway, has written a delightfully freeroaming exploration of the myth of the brooding Scandinavian. He provides an engaging, layered look into a complex culture. JANE AUSTEN AT HOME, by Lucy Worsley. (St. Martin's, $29.99.) A BBC presenter ebulliently describes Austen's many homes and residences, and speculates on her motives and emotions. Her thesis is that the thread that runs through Austen's novels is a longing for a safe haven, a place of her own. WELCOME: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals, written and illustrated by Mo Willems. (Hyperion, $15.99; all ages.) Designed as a gag instruction manual for the ride a baby is about to take through life, this book appeals to pre-verbal infants at the same time as it offers wise and reassuring words to parents. The witty graphic icons help. QUESTIONS ASKED, by Jostein Gaarder. Illustrated by Akin Duzakin. Translated by Don Bartlett. (Elsewhere, $14; ages 5 and up.) This gem by a Norwegian novelist, illustrated with sweet, spectral art, is a simple list of big questions all of us should ask about life and how best to live it. JUST FLY AWAY, by Andrew McCarthy. (Algonquin, $17.95; ages 12 and up.) A 15-year-old girl is outraged to learn that she has a half brother living in the same town, the result of her father's brief affair. The story takes unexpected turns, and displays real insight into the way adolescents withdraw emotionally. MIGHTIER THAN THESWORD, by K. J. Parker. (Subterranean; e-book, $4.99; limited-edition cloth, $40.) Afantasy empire is under attack by mysterious pirates in this intricate whodunit, full of rich characters. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [July 30, 2017] Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This enthusiastic, though often slow-going, biography by Worsley (The Art of the English Murder) delivers a portrait of the novelist in her successive homes, pondering the differences that place makes to Austen's fiction. As a young girl in Steventon Rectory, for example, Austen became a consummate novel reader who dreamed of joining the cadre of popular female novelists of the time, such as Fanny Burney and Ann Radcliffe. In her years at Steventon, Austen wrote an early draft of the novel that later became Sense and Sensibility and she observed many of the details of domestic life that she would include in her novels. Living for a short time in straitened circumstances after her father's death, Austen, according to Worsley, refused to sink into misery but instead turned her situation into art. When she moved into Chawton Cottage, Austen completed Mansfield Park, a novel that disparages the idea that an individual's birthplace is more important than "life experience or talent." In her final novel, Persuasion, Austen opens with the loss of a home and a period of rootlessness, and ends with the protagonist's finding a permanent home, brings this thematic preoccupation of hers full circle. Worsley's careful research delivers no dramatic new revelations about Austen's life or writing, but Janeites will flock to the book nevertheless for its fresh perspective on their idol. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Worsley (If Walls Could Talk) writes with a historian's acumen and a Janeite's passion, using these skills to unlock the doors of the many houses of Jane Austen (1775-1817). This book is written in the style of a play, with four acts linking Austen's residences to her life and writings. Worsley suggests, "A home of her own must have seemed to Jane to be always out of reach," and she delves into some of the interpersonal, financial, and creative struggles connected to this lack of such autonomy. At times, Worsley leans too heavily on details from Austen's fiction rather than providing biographical or historical facts. This is a relatively minor criticism, though, especially since -Worsley's knowledge of Austen's works buttresses her analysis of the author's physical world. Her book is a lovely excavation of Austen's home life, in which she provides readers access into places such as Pemberley without ever giving too much of herself away. -VERDICT This volume is sure to delight Austen fans, while Worsley's examination of manuscripts will make new material accessible to scholars unable to visit the British Library, Hampshire Archives, Kent History and Library Centre, or the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Record -Office.-Emily Bowles, Appleton, WI © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A fresh, spirited look at the beloved author by a self-proclaimed "Janeite."British historian Worsley (Maid of the King's Court, 2017, etc.), chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces, is steeped in the world of Georgian England, where Jane Austen (1775-1817) lived, wrote, and set her novels. In a biography as brightly entertaining as it is erudite, the author offers a richly detailed portrait of Austen, her various homes, and her social context. In what she admits is a "crowded field" of Austen biographies and critical studies, Worsley takes a wry, sometimes-irreverent perspective, grounded in a deep knowledge of Austen's fiction; letters to, by, and about her; and seemingly every bit of scholarship, criticism, and biographical inquiry relevant to her. Although her sources are abundant, there are still gaps, and Worsley occasionally resorts to "would have," "might have," and "it is easy to imagine" as she narrates Austen's life. Nevertheless, she is so reliable a historian that her speculations seem well-founded. She reads Austen's correspondence with uncommon empathy, discovering "dense detail of domestic life" in letters that some biographers have dismissed. Investigating Austen's possible suitors, Worsley cautions against treating her subject "like just another modern person, reacting to the situations in exactly the same way as the writer would him or herself." An 18th-century woman might have far different feelings about romance, she argues; Austen, she believes, had a series of suitors, one of whom proposed marriage. Austen accepted him only to change her mind the next day. Her writing career had a slow start, but Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, garnered "terrific sales" and strong reviews, becoming "a wild, noteworthy, enviable success" that buoyed Austen's confidence and made her a celebrity among her neighbors. Worsley gives sharply drawn pictures of domesticity in the many homes that Austen inhabited, including her family's rented houses in Bath and residences where she, her widowed mother, and sister visited as guests before they settled in Chawton, a site of pilgrimage for Janeites. A charming, well-researched journey to "Austen-land." Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.