The real Jane Austen: a life in small things


(Photo credit: HarperPress)

(Image shows the cover title of the book which features an image of Jane Austen alongside the title and author of the book)

Many of us are familiar with Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. And we may think that we know much about the author of these novels, Jane Austen.

But who was the real Jane Austen?

Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, Paula Byrne’s biography reveals the real woman behind the books.

In this new biography, entitled The real Jane Austen: a life in small things, Byrne explores the forces that shaped the life of Britain’s most beloved novelist: her father’s religious faith, her mother’s aristocratic pedigree, her eldest brother’s adoption, her other brothers’ naval and military experiences, her relatives in the East and West Indies, her cousin who lived through the trauma of the French Revolution, the family’s amateur theatricals, the female novelists she admired, her residence in Bath, her love of the seaside, her travels around England and her long struggle to become a published author.

Byrne uses a highly innovative technique whereby each chapter begins from an object that conjures up a key moment or theme in Austen’s life and work—a silhouette, a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a laptop writing box, a royalty cheque, a bathing machine, and many more.

The woman who emerges in this biography is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of ‘dear Aunt Jane’ would allow.

The book looks also at the biographical influences over her work, as well as her boundless energy, wit, irony and gift for savage social commentary.

Published to coincide with the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice, this lively and scholarly biography brings Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century.

You can find further details of The real Jane Austen on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.