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The Real Jane Austen A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

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I have so enjoyed reading this look at Jane Austen’s life that if I can convince just one reader to pick it up then I shall feel my job is done! Paula Byrne has selected a number of objects, some of them Jane Austen’s personal possessions, others objects of her time and used by her. Each of these objects, a shawl, a gold necklace, a portrait miniature or cushion, sets us off into explorations of Jane Austen’s life and work. It’s therefore a discursive biography that gives any Austen lover a new view of their beloved Jane; it illuminates the Jane we thought we knew, casting her into a new light. By highlighting family connections, affairs of the time and Jane Austen’s own correspondence we see her in a wider field, not just the woman at a writing desk but part of a larger world. We see her sense of fun, her love of her own work, her fondness for finery, the sea and young children. And what this biography does best is immediately make you go back to the writings, the main novels and also the minor works and the letters, anything to continue that thread between then and now that Paul Byrne has established.

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The Real Jane Austen A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books. In this paperback of the landmark biography, best-selling biographer Paula Byrne uses objects that conjure up a key moment in Austen's life and work - a silhouette, a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a writing box, a royalty cheque, a bathing machine, and many more - to unlock the biography of this most beloved author. The woman who emerges is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of 'dear aunt Jane' allows. Byrne's lively book explores the many forces that shaped Austen's life, her long struggle to become a published author, and brings Miss Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century.


'The perfect companion to the novels ... Tremendous' - Joanna Trollope, Sunday Telegraph

'Byrne's essays add up to a fine appraisal of the novelist's environment, truly Austenish in the way they burrow into a sequestered and often secretive private world' - Observer

About the Author

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead and has a PhD from the University of Liverpool, where she is a Research Fellow in English Literature. Her first book, Jane Austen and the Theatre, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, Perdita, was a Richard and Judy bookclub pick and Mad World was a Sunday Times bestseller. She lives in Oxford with her two children and her husband, the critic and biographer Jonathan Bate who is Provost of Worcester College.

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Book Info

Publication date

16th January 2014


Paula Byrne

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William Collins an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


400 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Biography: literary
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers



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