Biography focusing on faith sheds new light on author
May 16, 2010
Christian Encounters: Jane Austen by Peter Leithart is the newest edition in a terrific series about famous Christians in history. I am a big Austen fan, but I've never read any of her biographies. Although she's been dead for nearly two hundred years, her popularity continues to grow with the constant updates of movies based on her popular novels, as well as in novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Creatures. Jane's image has undergone several incarnations over the course of history, but it seems only in the late twentieth century has she been acknowledged as the witty, clever, and ironic creator of the English novel. Leithart does a wonderful job of recreating Austen's life (Jenny, as he calls her), with her large, loving, and literate family. He doesn't try to make more of her faith than is truly on the record. Austen had a true and deep faith, but it was that of the eighteenth century: quiet, unspoken, and humble. He uses letters between family members and friends, Jane's books, and prayers she wrote herself to support his thesis. Leithart portrays Jane as a favorite aunt, one who was always ready with a funny story, had time to play games with bored children, and loved to laugh. This biography will not only shed light on Austen's faith, but on how her upbringing contributed to her ability to write such timeless stories.
Let's get this straight. I do not read romance novels. Well, not regularly anyway. I don't consider Jane Austen's books to be brilliant because of the romance, and I consider many of the "sequels" other people have written to be mostly failures if they focus on the romance and not on the wit. Jane Austen's books are classics because of her characterizations and her way of portraying English society. The people seem real, and ridiculous, and smartly written. She's been criticized … more