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The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Thingsby Paula Byrne
Synopses & Reviews
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things offers a startlingly original look at the revered writer through a variety of key moments, scenes, and objects in her life and work. Going beyond previous traditional biographies which have traced Austens daily life from Steventon to Bath to Chawton to Winchester, Paula Byrnes portrait—organized thematically and drawn from the most up-to-date scholarship and unexplored sources—explores the lives of Austens extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Through their absorbing stories, we view Austen on a much wider stage and discover unexpected aspects of her life and character. Byrne transports us to different worlds—the East Indies and revolutionary Paris—and different events—from a high society scandal to a petty case of shoplifting, She follows Austen on her extensive travels, setting her in contexts both global and English, urban and rural, political and historical, social and domestic—wider perspectives of vital and still under-estimated importance to her creative life.
Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austens novels often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane's own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer's world—a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine—hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.
"Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (first published in January 1813), comes Paula Byrne's vivacious new portrait of its author. The approach Byrne (Jane Austen and the Theatre) takes is refreshingly material-based and the book is experimental in structure; each chapter unfolds from the biographer's description of a small object associated with Austen's life (chapter titles include 'The East Indian Shawl', 'The Cocked Hat' 'The Card of Lace', 'The Crimson Velvet Cushions', and 'The Topaz Crosses'). This technique serves two functions: firstly, it honors the precision for which Austen was famed by drawing attention to the material artifacts of her life; secondly, it challenges the 'Ã¢Â€Â˜official' family biography of Jane Austen,' which stresses the novelist's 'enclosed, sequestered world', coloring Austen's life with the same 'ivory miniature' quality she famously ascribed to her fiction. Byrne's Austen, as revealed through this archive of objects, emerges as a worldly woman, profoundly enmeshed in a wider world than she's often acknowledged to occupy. This is an Austen with a sense for the political as well as for the finer points of sensibility — and one who will be unfamiliar (though never unrecognizable) to many readers. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In The Real Jane Austen, acclaimed literary biographer Paula Byrne provides the most intimate and revealing portrait yet of a beloved but complex novelist.
Just as letters and tokens in Jane Austens novels often signal key turning points in the narrative, Byrne explores the small things - a scrap of paper, a gold chain, an ivory miniature - that held significance in Austens personal and creative life.
Byrne transports us to different worlds, from the East Indies to revolutionary Paris, and to different events, from a high society scandal to a case of petty shoplifting. In this ground-breaking biography, Austen is set on a wider stage than ever before, revealing a well-traveled and politically aware writer - important aspects of her artistic development that have long been overlooked.
The Real Jane Austen is a fresh, compelling, and surprising biography of the author of some of our most enduring classic books - from Pride and Prejudice to Sense and Sensibility, Emma to Persuasion - and a vivid evocation of the world that shaped her.
Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books. Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen was published in 1997 and, although it contained little new research, sold more than 20,000 copies in paperback. Paula Byrne - an internationally renowned Jane Austen scholar and a best-selling biographer - has uncovered a very different Jane Austen to the Jane of popular imagination. This Jane, revealed in the first biography written for a general readership but based on the most up-to-date scholarship - is a woman deeply immersed in the culture around her, but also far ahead of her time in her independence and tough-mindedness. Throughout, this book gives the sense of Austen as an astute commentator on human nature in general and her own age in particular, and above all as a writer of independence and ambition. Each chapter is focussed on a key moment in Austen's life: eg. when her handicapped brother is removed from the family, when her exotic cousin Eliza arrives in the family circle, when her aunt was arrested for shoplifting, her time alone in London. The book also gives detailed attention to the novels themselves. After this book, no longer can Austen be viewed as someone who did not engage with the great political events of her time. How many lovers of her work are aware that the Prince Regent kept a debauched household down the road from her village, that she was related by marriage to other major literary figures of the time such as the libertine Gothic novelist William Beckford and her favourite poet George Crabbe. The book will also argue that her assumed 'genteel' sense of humour could also be savage, highly subversive irony.
About the Author
Paula Byrne is the author of Perdita, a highly acclaimed biography of eighteenth-century celebrity Mary Robinson. A regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and other publications, she lives in Warwickshire, England, with her three children and her husband, the critic and biographer Jonathan Bate.
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