Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.This new telling of the story of Jane's life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn't all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a pain...

Title:Jane Austen at Home: A Biography
Author:
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Edition Language:English
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:400 pages

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography Reviews

  • Kristin Davison
    Jan 25, 2017

    To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Austen, Worsley has come out with a lively biography that focuses on Austen’s homes (or lack of them). This angle gives an interesting insight into how Austen lived her life day to day and how much this influenced her work.

    Worsley’s style of writing is clear, entertaining and easy to read, I flew through the book. The information that is presented is very well researched and gives a real idea of who Austen really was and what she looked like.

    To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Austen, Worsley has come out with a lively biography that focuses on Austen’s homes (or lack of them). This angle gives an interesting insight into how Austen lived her life day to day and how much this influenced her work.

    Worsley’s style of writing is clear, entertaining and easy to read, I flew through the book. The information that is presented is very well researched and gives a real idea of who Austen really was and what she looked like. What Austen looked like is hard to determine, but Worsley presents a clear image that is oddly familiar. Austen becomes a “modern” woman with a temper and a want of independence.

    This biography packs a punch, I learnt so much from it. It has just the right amount of contextual information is included, informing the reader about the era without overwhelming them or turning the biography into a textbook on the era. Worsley debunks myths about Austen herself and the era in which she lived and wrote. I loved that Worsley includes historical and archaeological evidence, as a hopeful future archaeologist myself, this is refreshing.

    The influence behind Austen’s novels is obviously discussed, but Worsley brings forward new and interesting ideas. The idea of Austen as a “modern” woman who didn’t like having to do domestic chores is explored along with the subtlety of her novels and where the original spark of imagination for her writing came from. I love that Worsley suggests that this may have come from Austen’s time at the Abbey school Reading, though I may be bias as I was born in Reading.

    In conclusion this is a fantastically entertaining book that is completely worth picking up, I now have a list of places I want to visit and stay at along with books to read.

    Dr Lucy Worsley is the Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, covering Hampton court, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Banqueting Hall, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. Worsley gets amazing behind the scene access to these properties and often tweets about the goings on. She is an insightful writer having recently released two childrens’ fiction books based on Katherine Howard and Queen Victoria and is also regularly seen on TV, including her latest series Six Wives.

    Twitter = @Lucy_Worsley

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    I would like to thank Lucy Worsley and Maddy Price at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a physical proof copy! I look forward to reading it :)

  • Tony Riches
    Feb 01, 2017

    I can say with some confidence that, after reading this book, you will never read Jane Austen’s works in quite the same way again. I also wonder if, like me, your mental picture of Jane Austen is a blend of the famous ‘portrait’ by her sister Cassandra and Anne Hathaway’s memorable portrayal in TV’s (historically inaccurate) ‘Becoming Jane’? If so, you must read this brilliant new work by Lucy Worsley.

    Lucy’s lively style and relish in fascinating details shines new light on the real Jane Austen.

    I can say with some confidence that, after reading this book, you will never read Jane Austen’s works in quite the same way again. I also wonder if, like me, your mental picture of Jane Austen is a blend of the famous ‘portrait’ by her sister Cassandra and Anne Hathaway’s memorable portrayal in TV’s (historically inaccurate) ‘Becoming Jane’? If so, you must read this brilliant new work by Lucy Worsley.

    Lucy’s lively style and relish in fascinating details shines new light on the real Jane Austen. Most of what I thought I knew was right – but lacking the vital context provided as we study the reality of Jane’s home life. In the modern vernacular, we would say she was ‘just about managing’ for most of her time, although Lucy helps us understand what was considered normal in Georgian society – and what was not.

    Jane’s sister destroyed many of her letters deemed ‘personal’ and those which survive have been described as ‘mundane.’ Lucy Worsley disagrees and finds delight in the trivia. She says, ‘...her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required. These letters are a treasure trove hiding in plain sight.’ I was also fascinated to realise Jane knew her letters could be read aloud, often over breakfast, so used a code known to her sister to ensure discretion.

    To return to what Jane might have looked like, Lucy suggests she was around five feet seven, with a twenty-four inch waist (the alarming consequence of wearing tight stays as a girl). She rebukes biographers who describe her as a ‘plump, dumpy woman’ based on Cassandra’s portrait rather than the evidence. Similarly, the romantic image of a lonely writer fits poorly with the known facts.

    I was intrigued by the glimpses of the author’s own formative years. By wonderful coincidence Lucy attended the Abbey school in Reading where Jane Austen was sent as a border at the age of thirteen. (She also stayed at the same house as Jane Austen by the sea in Lyme Regis.) As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on the 18th of July, I highly recommend this new book, which establishes Lucy Worsley as one of my favourite authors.

    Tony Riches

  • Angela Smith
    Mar 03, 2017

    I am an admirer of Lucy Worsley's history programs that she presents on television and her love of history is infectious. (Although I caught the bug for history at an early age) When this book came up for me to read and review I jumped at the chance because I wanted to see if her love of history transmitted as well to the written page. Jane Austen is a subject dear to my heart as well.

    I have read several books about Jane Austen and her life as well as her letters to her sister Cassandra. While I

    I am an admirer of Lucy Worsley's history programs that she presents on television and her love of history is infectious. (Although I caught the bug for history at an early age) When this book came up for me to read and review I jumped at the chance because I wanted to see if her love of history transmitted as well to the written page. Jane Austen is a subject dear to my heart as well.

    I have read several books about Jane Austen and her life as well as her letters to her sister Cassandra. While I have enjoyed those books, none so much as this book about Jane's life. Lucy presents many interesting details about how the real Jane Austen was through thorough research. (You should see the extensive notes and bibliography listed at the back of the book)

    She presents a Jane Austen as a woman ahead of her time. There are various references to people that she could have married but it really seems she decided on the single life at an historical time when it wasn't acceptable to be unwed. After Cassandra lost her fiancée she never showed interest in finding another potential suitor either. Marriage wasn't a particularly appealing prospect back then except for financial security and the comfort of a roof over your head.

    The book tells Jane's life in depth without becoming bogged down and you can feel the author's love of the subject matter in how she writes it. However, this is no star struck account of Jane and hints at her wilder side that was supressed by the times that she lived in and how she was "expected" to behave. The book tells of her life from birth right up to past her death and how the family hoped to profit from her two unpublished manuscripts Northanger Abbey/Persuasion even after her death.

    There are family fallings out, hopes of expected inheritances, Jane's struggles to get published and even what many authors face, rejection of her work. There is a feeling that although she loved writing that she never really believed in herself. I wonder if it was due to members of her family downplaying her talent and focusing more on a brother who had had published sermons. It seemed Jane was only considered good as free childcare and in a domestic role rather than her talent as a writer. Life was tough and lived on a shoestring budget, even more so after the death of their father.

    It was fascinating to read about her development of her stories and I was surprised to read that Persuasion (My favourite Jane Austen novel) was started on August 8th (1815) which is my birthday. Reading about her stories, there was a lot of similarity in names of people she knew in real life that were very close to names she gave to characters of her books.

    This is a well rounded book that gives an interesting insight to one of Britain's most beloved classic writers. On the front of the book it says The perfect marriage of author and subject and of that I agree.

  • Kimberly
    May 29, 2017

    "Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness"

    ~Virginia Woolf

    Well done indeed, Lucy Worsley.

  • Damaskcat
    May 19, 2017

    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

    Lucy Worsley succeeds in presenting a three dimensional Jane Austen in this fascinating biography. She shows how the Austen family tried to sanitise the picture which was presented to the world after Jane's death but the evidence is still there if you choose to look for it. By reference to previous biographies, primary sources, the novels themselves and the juvenilia the author pieces together a very much more robust picture - warts and all.

    It i

    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

    Lucy Worsley succeeds in presenting a three dimensional Jane Austen in this fascinating biography. She shows how the Austen family tried to sanitise the picture which was presented to the world after Jane's death but the evidence is still there if you choose to look for it. By reference to previous biographies, primary sources, the novels themselves and the juvenilia the author pieces together a very much more robust picture - warts and all.

    It is well known that Cassandra Austen - Jane's sister - destroyed some of her letters after her death to help create the picture of her which has been handed down through the generations. But there is enough evidence in the surviving letters to show that Jane's character was not all sweetness and light. She was someone who belonged to the more robust culture of the eighteenth century rather than the more mealy mouthed and buttoned up nineteenth century culture.

    You only have to read Sense and Sensibility and appreciate the earthy vulgarity of Mrs Jennings to know that Jane Austen must have been aware of aspects of life which would not automatically be associated with a maiden aunt. Her letters show she was something of a flirt and had many possible suitors - all of whom she refused in the end. Jane Austen was very much aware of the facts of life.

    She also had a very well developed sense of the ridiculous and a sense of humour which could see something amusing in most situations. She also enjoyed misleading people and her letters and the novels can be read on many levels and it is very far from clear whether she is joking or being serious.

    This is a book to read and re-read and Lucy Worsley has written what to my mind is one of the best books about Jane Austen ever written. The book contains a comprehensive bibliography as well as an index ad notes on sources throughout the text. If you only read one book on Jane Austen this year then make it this one.

  • Abi White
    May 21, 2017

    I am a massive Janite, but am still Shocked that I have read a biography at such a pace. This really did "feel" more like a work of fiction, and managed to be fun despite doing nothing to gloss over the fact that being a poor unmarried "gentleman's daughter" sounds like my idea of hell.

    I will certainly be seeking out Lucy Worsley's other books, and will be making a pilgrimage to some of the places described in such great detail.

    I cried at the end. Does that count as a spoiler?

  • Teresa
    Jun 12, 2017

    This is a fantastic read. I've read a few Jane Austen Biographies and some were a bit high brow and I had to trudge through others. It's all change with this one. The chapters were laid out clear and concisely. It started with her early days and went right through in order. As usual the chapter about her death is extremely sad but very well done. I thought I knew all there was to know about Jane but I picked up some new snippets here.

    I was pulled into this book as soon as I started reading. I s

    This is a fantastic read. I've read a few Jane Austen Biographies and some were a bit high brow and I had to trudge through others. It's all change with this one. The chapters were laid out clear and concisely. It started with her early days and went right through in order. As usual the chapter about her death is extremely sad but very well done. I thought I knew all there was to know about Jane but I picked up some new snippets here.

    I was pulled into this book as soon as I started reading. I stopped to do a group read of another book and couldn't wait to get back to it. Enthralled again as soon as I picked it up.

    For anyone who's new to Jane Austen's novels or just Jane herself, I'd highly recommend this book.

  • Mandy
    May 30, 2017

    A thoroughly readable and enjoyable account of Jane Austen and her world, with a well-judged balance of scholarship and anecdote. The tone is a little breathless at times, to be sure – but then it is Lucy Worsley and the occasional exclamation mark is to be expected. I’m not sure that we learn anything new here but it’s all presented in a fun and accessible way. Worsley is a populist historian and this is a populist book, but none the worse for that. I really enjoyed it, learnt quite a lot, and

    A thoroughly readable and enjoyable account of Jane Austen and her world, with a well-judged balance of scholarship and anecdote. The tone is a little breathless at times, to be sure – but then it is Lucy Worsley and the occasional exclamation mark is to be expected. I’m not sure that we learn anything new here but it’s all presented in a fun and accessible way. Worsley is a populist historian and this is a populist book, but none the worse for that. I really enjoyed it, learnt quite a lot, and found that Jane Austen came alive in a way she sometimes doesn’t in more academic biographies.

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