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Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy…

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography

by Lucy Worsley

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I'm a sucker for anything Jane Austen, and this new biography did not disappoint. Worsley explores Austen's life through the places she lived, who she lived with, and whether (or not) she wrote there. After years of hearing "it's not worth reading or writing about Austen because we just don't know anything after her family sanitized everything about her" I've found a couple really interesting and personal biographies about her. Claire Tomalin's book and this being my favorites.

I like my writings about Austen to feel personal and emotional and Worsley hits that perfectly. The book is well-researched and factual but Worsely also lets her love for Austen shine through (without bringing her voice into it too much).

After the other biographies and annotated texts I've read, this didn't present much information that was new to me, but it was very enjoyable to read and I'd recommend it to any Austen fan. ( )
1 vote japaul22 | Mar 13, 2018 |
I really enjoyed this biography. The author divides up Jane's life both into four "acts" by the general theme of each phase of her life and by her many homes, both temporary and more permanent. I was aware that she moved around quite a bit in the middle portion of her life, but this book really shows how her home at any given time reflects the circumstances of her life at that time. The book is very well written and kept me reading with interest, even though I knew the basics of Jane's life already. ( )
  duchessjlh | Nov 11, 2017 |
This year is the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death, and Lucy Worsley's biography is an excellent memorial to her. The prose does at times get a bit affected, but this is overall a warm, clear-eyed look at the life of a pioneering author. Worsley is careful to avoid sensationalism—she neatly dismantles, for instance, the old canard that Tom Lefroy was the "real Mr. Darcy", the love of Austen's life who got away—or the temptation to assume that all of Austen's heroines are somehow copies of her, their narratives the key to Austen's own private life. Instead, to much greater effect than any other biography of Austen's that I've read, Worsley teases out the quiet desperation of being a woman perched on the precarious ranks of the lower gentry in Georgian England, the way Austen's novels turn on issues of home and security, and the then revolutionary nature of Austen's prose and her concern with the importance of women's feelings. (How many novels before Austen foregrounded women's wants and desires?) It's still quite astounding to think that a woman with little formal education, who was never part of salon society or a correspondence networks of other authors, managed to sit in a succession of small rooms and come up with an entirely new approach to novel writing which may now seem commonplace but which still resonates. ( )
  siriaeve | Aug 31, 2017 |
I have been reading Jane and about Jane for thirty-nine years. I found Jane Austen at Home to be revealing and thoughtful, expanding my understanding, and bringing Jane to life as a living, breathing woman. I so enjoyed every bit of Jane Austen at Home.

"Miss Austen's merits have long been established beyond a question: she is, emphatically, the novelist of home."Richard Bentley, publishing Jane Austen's novels in 1833

Worsley offers this quotation at the beginning of her Introduction. The search for home is central to Austen's fiction, Worsley contends. Jane herself lost her first home, the Stevenson parsonage, upon her father's retirement. She moved from rental to rental before her eldest brother Edward, adopted into a wealthy family, offered his mother and sisters Chawton Cottage.

Austen's characters are in need of a home, have lost a home, are concerned about home in some way. Charlotte even enters a loveless marriage with Rev. Collins to have a home. And yet Jane turned down the opportunity to be a woman with a substantial home with the brother of her dear friends.

The book is about the importance of 'home' and how Jane was impacted by her homes. It is also about family, and friendships, and love affairs, and the greater world, and most of all, Jane's dedication to her novels and how she used the world she knew to create her fictional worlds.

The book appears in four acts, a nod to Jane's love of theater and plays.

Act One: A Sunday Morning at the Rectory presents Jane's childhood home and younger years, including her teenage trip to the Bath "marriage mart."
Act Two: A Sojourner in a Strange Land follows Jane and her family into the series of rental homes, vacations, and visits after her father's retirement from ministry: Bath, Southampton, Lyme Regis, and their Bigg's friend's home Manydown. All of these locations appear in her novels.
Act Three: A Real Home finds Jane, Cassandra, their mother and Martha Lloyd living in a gifted home provided by Edward (nee' Austen now Knight).
Act Four: The End, and After concerns Jane's later years, last novels, and illness and death.

It was interesting to read that, based on a pelisse Jane may have worn, her measurements were 33-24-33 and that she was a stately 5'7" tall. The small waist would have been from wearing stays as a girl. She had high cheek bones and full cheeks with good color, and long light brown hair with a natural curl.

Jane had many suitors over her life; those who perhaps she wished would make an offer did not, and those who showed interest or did offer she turned down. As Worsley remarks, consider the novels that would never have been born had Jane wed! Had she married she may have ended up like her niece Anna, worn out by age thirty from successive pregnancies.

Jane died two hundred years ago. Her family lived into the Victorian Age and endeavored to make Jane palatable to the new era by presenting a pious and loving Aunt Jane who excelled at spillikins. The real woman had a sharp wit and acerbic pen which she employed to earn money to live on. And Mrs. Austen, for all her ailments, loved to put dig her own potatoes and muck about in the kitchen garden! No wonder this Austen family seemed lacking in sophistication by Victorian standards.

The impact of slavery, plantations in the Caribbean, and the Napoleonic Wars on Jane's world and her family are also shown. With brothers in the navy, relatives invested in slave plantations, the bank failure of one brother and an aunt who was charged with shoplifting, Jane's life was anything but sheltered!

I am asking for this book as a birthday present, to sit on my shelf with my Jane Austen sets.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | Jul 18, 2017 |
On the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen I feel beholden to return to her timeless stories, but in Lucy Worsley’s book I have been given additional insight into Jane’ character and sensitivity. “Jane Austen at Home” is assiduously well documented, showing a depth of research and most importantly, a grasp of Jane’s spirit.

At first sight, the thick book of small text seems daunting, but as you begin to read you are invited in to Steventon Rectory and soon come to know Jane’s family; her loving father, unsympathetic mother, the legion of brothers and dear sister Cassandra. From Jane’s letters and many accounts by family members, Lucy has built up a clear picture of her everyday life and the way in which her homes are reflected in her books.

It is a delight to read Lucy’s own voice as she reveals her discoveries about Jane Austen,
in her letters – “her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required.”
Jane’s letters were “double-voiced,” giving an entertaining account to be read aloud, but with a sub-text that her nearest and dearest would understand. Lucy Worsley also parallels Jane’s letters to the tweets of J K Rowling.

It is the first time that I had fully appreciated that the demands of the long Napoleonic War, raising prices and causing shortages, made middling families, such as Jane’s, experience hardship but they also brought the military officers in their dashing uniforms, both aspects being the meat for Jane’s plots.

The retirement of Reverend Austen and the family’s move to Bath are described in intricate detail, underlining the dreadful effect on Jane and Cassandra. We read of the sale of all the family’s books and of Jane’s piano and her music. Leaving her home of 25 years, they move from one rented house to another among the “pea-soup fogs in Bath.” Her father’s death causing a large drop in their income shows how much she understood the importance of money to her heroines.

The frustration of Jane Austen’s life story is how poorly she was acknowledged as an author, during her lifetime and what a pittance she received when they were published. Despite the help of her father and her brother in finding publishers, novels and women writers were not yet considered worthy of praise.

Reaching the chapter where Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen move back to Hampshire and settle into Chawton Cottage, I also felt as if I was coming home. I could see her sitting by her table in the cottage window, trying to write, while others moved about the compact house. The last few years of her life show Jane as a calm, determined woman with the same purpose and energy as her heroines.
This is a book for lovers of Jane Austen’s books who wish to know more about this quiet, enigmatic person. Did she have romances, were there regrets that she remained single and had no children? Did she achieve what she wished to accomplish? I suggest you read “Jane Austen at Home” to look for those answers. ( )
  Somerville66 | May 29, 2017 |
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Redman, RuthNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Take a trip back to Jane Austen's world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen's childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses--both grand and small--of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a 'life without incident'.

Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but--in the end--a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

Illustrated with two sections of color plates, Lucy Worsley's Jane Austen at Home is a richly entertaining and illuminating new book about one of the world’s favorite novelists and one of the subjects she returned to over and over in her unforgettable novels: home. [retrieved 5/4/18 from Amazon.com]
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"On the eve of the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen's death, take a trip back to her world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen's childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses--both grand and small--of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life"--… (more)

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