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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jane Austen: a Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef

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.
(from the marketing material)

I'm a fan of Jane Austen's work, but really don't know much about her beyond the fact that she stayed single all her life and died fairly young. There isn't a lot of primary source information about her available, because after she died her family destroyed most personal letters and doesn't seem to have agreed on too many things about her.

Regardless, this book reads more like a novelization of her life than a traditional biography. It's a comfortable read (because calling it an "easy" read doesn't do it justice). The book follows Jane's life, from birth to her death. Reef shares not only information about Jane's particular story, but also about members of her family, with whom she was very close. Each of her novels is summarized during the telling of the story, which seems a bit tedious at times for a biography. However, you soon realize that each novel is part of Jane's story. Her characters developed as grew older and experienced life.

Reef's book provides an approachable look at an author who can seem rather daunting to a young adult. I mean, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice aren't exactly light reading for today's high school student. It's a wonderful read, and adds to the understanding of not only who Jane Austen is, but how much her daily life influenced her writing.

Reef, Catherine. Jane Austen: a life revealed. Clarion Books. April, 2011.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Hougton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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