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Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart by Valerie…

Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart

by Valerie Grosvenor Myers

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This is a well-written attempt to discover the undiscoverable. Jane Austen, like many of her contemporaries, was a prolific letter writer, but her sister Cassandra burned most of those letters shortly before her own death. So Austen fans are left with a number of superficial details about Austen’s life, interspersed with comments from the few surviving letters. Austen led a fairly retired life, having never married, devoted to her extended family, but struggling always with what was known as “genteel poverty.” The book is chock-full of details, and acute analysis of character, but ultimately leaves a frustrating gap in the inquiring reader’s mind – who was the young man Austen may have been (and probably was) in love with, and why did she turn down his proposal? An interesting and detailed account of the life of a spinster aunt in Regency England – but less vivid to me than the memoirs of some of our American diarists. ( )
  RachelfromSarasota | Jun 9, 2008 |
3069 Jane Austen Obstinate Heart: A Life, by Valerie Grosvenor Myer (read 26 Apr 1998) In 1997 two new biographies of Jane Austen came out and I decided to read this one. It is a delicious book, very worthy of its subject. The book tells much trivial things but her life (born 16 Dec 1775, at Steventon, Hampshire, England, died 18 July 1817 at Winchester, Hampshire) was outwardly uneventful so her story must be told by what happened to her. There is a lot of detail available, and at first this book was not chronological, but it got to be and it is an excellent account. Austen only attained her present status in the literary canon in the 20th century--between 1817 and 1870 there was only one complete edition of her work. Since, there have been countlsess.This was a most enjoyable and worthwhile reading experience. ( )
  Schmerguls | Dec 21, 2007 |
This biography of Jane Austen examines the author's life and work, drawing on Austen's letters and family papers. It reveals how much of her work was based on her own family and life, and also describes the social scene: fashion, food, travel, dancing, love and money in 19th-century England.
  antimuzak | Dec 7, 2007 |
This is a very good biography for readers who want a fairly straightforward, reliable, moderate length account of Austen's life. Among the seven biographies that I have read so far, I think that this is the best first choice for readers who want more than Carol Shield's well-done Jane Austen, part of Penquins short biography series, but who don't want to tackle a book as long as John Halperin's Life of Jane Austen, nearly twice the length of this. Halperin weaves a lot more quotes together to build his narrative,something that I found disconcerting when I was younger, although I like it now. I leave the reader to determine their own taste. (As a teenager, I regarded books made up largely of quotes as most people regard books with mathematical formula.)

Myers organizes her work both chronologically and thematically, discussing all of JA's romances and potential romances in one chapter, and then alluding back to them when she returns to chronological order. She recounts standard interpretations, but allows for some alternatives; she duly records that Mrs. Austen was regarded as a hypochondriac, but notes that her frequent pregnancies may have left her with problems of which we are unaware.

Some of the reviewers have complained that Myers does not contribute any new research, but frankly I think that there are probably few facts to add to what is already know and a readable biography is itself a great accomplishment, and preferable to inventing wild theories to gain a little publicity. Some other authors that have produced more research into the minutiae of Georgian-Regency life thereby scant JA's life or hare off on tangents that may try some readers' patience. While I personally adore all this somewhat extraneous detail, it is best preceded by reading a book like this that gives one a solid grounding regarding JA's life. Others make up for a lack of new information by posthumous psychoanalysis and mindreading, not something that I encourage.

The reader should be aware that the book is serious flawed by a lack of notes. I don't know if this was the author's or the publisher's choice. The book generally accords with what other biographers write, so I am fairly confident of the facts, but when Myers makes an unusual assertion, such as the claim that Cassandra Leigh didn't really want to marry George Austen, this is very irritating.

In all, I think this is a good choice for entering into a study of JA's life, one that can be enriched by reading other books later. ( )
  juglicerr | Oct 9, 2007 |
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Uses Jane Austen's letters and novels and her family's memories of her to portray her personality and trace the events of her life.

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