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An excellent introduction to the life and times of Jane Austen

  • May 6, 2011
Catherine Reef authored over forty nonfiction books, including other biographies. She writes well, simply, graphically, drawing readers into her tale, and the book has many pictures. She overcame a serious problem with this volume, for little is known about Jane Austen (1775-1817), one of the world's most beloved writers, for there are conflicting reports about her. Did she like people, or did this author of such books as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, books about love and family, really dislike people and even mock them? After her death at age 41, unmarried, her niece praised her, "I do not suppose she ever in her life said a sharp thing." Yet she herself wrote, "I do not want People to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal."

Reef tells us about the heavy-handed and discriminatory life in England during Austen's lifetime. The nobility ruled and looked down upon the non-noble. Women were disparaged; they couldn't inherit money; whether married or not, their life depended upon the whim and will of men. Jane once had trouble traveling a hundred miles because there was no man to take her. She published six mature novels between 1811 and 1818, all anonymously, because she was a woman. Her father, a clergyman of modest means, not her mother who had no say, gave up one of his sons to a rich childless relative for adoption so that the boy would be able to inherit money. The people believed that all of this was the will of a wise God.

Schools and teachers were unregulated and frequently unsanitary; food was scanty at school and many schools didn't allow outside play. Jane almost died in one of them. Her teacher did die from an infection. She quite school forever at age 10. She wrote that there are places "where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity."

Reef tells about the books that Austen admired, the many early books and plays that she wrote beginning at age 11, about her family, her sister, brothers, relatives, and friends. She tells also about her first love who she couldn't marry because the man's family didn't want their son to marry a girl who was not rich. Later, she accepted a marriage proposal from a friend but turned it down the next day because she felt that friendship was insufficient grounds for a marriage. She wanted love.

As successful as Austen became, it may surprise some readers to know that she had a hard time finding a publisher and had to pay for the printing of her first book. Since she had no money, her brother paid for her. Reef tells about this book, Sense and Sensibility, the plot, characters, as well as about her other books. She also writes what critics said, such as: Austen makes her love scenes too short. The book sold well and Austen made 140 pounds in 1813, much more than an average worker makes in a year. For the first time she had money. She was 37, with four more years to live. The publisher was so satisfied that he agreed to publish her next book Pride and Prejudice without Austen having to pay a cent. This second book was an immediate success. Her books were liked by many people. When she died, the church had to keep her coffin open for viewing for six days.

Mark Twain noted that whether a person likes a book or not is a matter of personal taste. He disliked all of Jane Austen's books. But whether one likes them or not, readers will enjoy Catherine Reef's story of her life.
An excellent introduction to the life and times of Jane Austen

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June 12, 2011
I'll definitely look for this book. Thanks for the review.
May 19, 2011
Pride and Prejudice was a masterpiece.
About the reviewer
Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #62
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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About this book


Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen. 

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed.Includes bibliography and index.



A Note from the Author



Dear Amazon Readers:

Discovering Jane Austen is like making a friend for life. Or many friends. When we open Pride and Prejudice, or Emma, or one of Austen’s other great novels, we come face-to-face with her memorable characters. We meet sparkling Elizabeth Bennet, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy, capable Anne Elliot, reckless Mr. Willoughby, and sensitive Marianne Dashwood. We laugh, cry, or even cringe as they make mistakes and learn tough lessons. We rejoice when they find happiness at last. They were created long ago, but they are like people in every age.

It is a joy to return to Austen’s novels throughout our lives, because like all great books, they continue to surprise and ...

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ISBN-10: 0547370210
ISBN-13: 978-0547370217
Author: Catherine Reef
Publisher: Clarion Books

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