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"Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen's world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity."--Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire Ta "Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen's world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity."--Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire 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.


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"Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen's world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity."--Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire Ta "Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen's world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity."--Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire 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.

30 review for Jane Austen at Home: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I loved this biography of Jane Austen so much that while reading it I was bursting with enthusiasm and couldn't stop talking about it. Historian Lucy Worlsey focused on Jane's experiences in her different homes and on how her novels treated life at home. I especially appreciated the details about Jane's relationship with her parents and siblings, the joy of when she got her first writing desk (which I was lucky enough to see on display at the British Library), and the details about how her work f I loved this biography of Jane Austen so much that while reading it I was bursting with enthusiasm and couldn't stop talking about it. Historian Lucy Worlsey focused on Jane's experiences in her different homes and on how her novels treated life at home. I especially appreciated the details about Jane's relationship with her parents and siblings, the joy of when she got her first writing desk (which I was lucky enough to see on display at the British Library), and the details about how her work finally got published. I have read several books about Jane Austen, and this is one of the most enjoyable for its mix of real life and details from her writing. I thought the whole book was fascinating, and the author's examples from Jane's work made me want to reread all her novels. (Although this is not a new phenomenon; on any given day, whatever I'm doing, I'd likely rather be reading a Jane Austen novel. Or watching one of the movies.) Anyway, I enjoyed this biography so much that I want to get my own copy and add it to my Austen shelf. "One can never have too many biographies of Jane Austen," is a thing I have actually said. Highly recommended for Janeites. Now pardon me, but I need to go watch "Pride and Prejudice" for the thousandth time. Meaningful Passage "For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe? A home of her own must have seemed to Jane to be always just out of reach. With only a tiny stash of capital hard earned by her writing, the death of her father forced her into a makeshift life in rented lodgings, or else shunted between the relations who used her as cheap childcare. It's not surprising, then, that the search for home is an idea that's central to Jane's fiction."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    4.5 stars "For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe? A home of her own must have seemed to Jane to be always just out of reach." Historian and author Lucy Worsley has written an excellent biography examining the beloved novelist Jane Austen’s writing from the context of homes – her own homes as well as the homes of others in 4.5 stars "For Jane, home was a perennial problem. Where could she afford to live? Amid the many domestic duties of an unmarried daughter and aunt, how could she find the time to write? Where could she keep her manuscripts safe? A home of her own must have seemed to Jane to be always just out of reach." Historian and author Lucy Worsley has written an excellent biography examining the beloved novelist Jane Austen’s writing from the context of homes – her own homes as well as the homes of others in which she either temporarily resided or often visited. In her novels, homes play such a significant role in the lives of her heroines, so it seems only fitting to take a closer look at how Jane’s own home life influenced her stories. "To her heroines, it’s always a life goal to be happy and ‘at home’, particularly in a drawing room, the stage upon which most of social life’s transactions are performed." Details of the places where Jane lived are not lacking. From the start of her life at Steventon Rectory, to her homes in Bath, to Southampton, to Chawton Cottage, and to where she took her last breath in Winchester, we are introduced to the places where Jane drew her inspiration for her novels and where she sat down and wrote these masterpieces. We quickly learn that Jane was at the mercy of her father and later her brothers for providing her with a roof over her head as well as a small income on which to subsist. I was shocked to learn that wealthier Austen relations were not necessarily generous with their money when it came to offering a more comfortable life for both Jane and her unmarried sister Cassandra. Despite the fact that there is not an over-abundance of source material regarding Jane’s personal life, numerous letters – in particular those to her sister, still exist and shed much light on the novelist’s daily activities as well as her sparkling personality. Worsley indicates that much of what was previously understood about Jane’s life was perhaps colored by the Austen family’s desire to paint their famous relation in a certain image. "In later years, the Austen family entered into a kind of collective conspiracy to cover up their humble origins, and to make their famous aunt’s life look easier, more genteel, less hard work than it really was." However, when one carefully studies the letters she wrote, we may see a different side to Jane, the side that we often glimpse when we read about her fascinating heroines. "You could not think her lacking in temper once you have seen her private letters to Cassandra, which crackle, sometimes, with wickedness and rage." We also learn a bit more about Jane’s potential suitors, although much of her ‘love life’ still has an aura of mystery surrounding it, in my opinion! Naturally, being a huge fan of Jane Austen’s novels, I was thrilled to find examples from her work. Worsley carefully traces the process of Jane’s writing her rough drafts to the various rewritings and to the onerous task of trying to publish the finished products. Having not delved into any sort of biography of her life previously, I was surprised to learn how very little money she actually made on her writing during her lifetime. Of course, over time, she became more savvy and independent regarding the process of publishing, yet it must have been a daunting task for a young woman living during the Georgian era! I agree wholeheartedly with Worsley’s statement: "But the enduring reason for Jane’s popularity today is that she seems born outside her time, to be more like one of us, for she lifelong expresses the opposite point of view: in favour of vitality, strength, independence." I highly recommend this biography to any Jane Austen fan. The only ‘drawback’ I found to reading this book is that I want to drop all my other planned reading and grab my stack of Austen novels and fall in love with them all over again! "Jane’s great gift to us is to have survived these dark days, keeping hold of hope, and staying true to life choices that would expand the very definition of what it means to be a female writer… She took her regrets and bitterness and turned them into irony and art. She would use these powerful weapons to blow open the lock that kept penniless daughters prisoners inside their family homes."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    What a book! A really brilliant biography, so thoughtfully put together, so well written, with just the right amount of historical and social context. Very moving, very interesting and absolutely worth a read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    abby

    Jane Austen is a household name, and we know very little about her. Historian Lucy Worsley seeks to change that by focusing on the famous author's life at home-- and lack there of one. What emerges is a story of the precarious business of being a woman in Georgian England. Your home is wherever your male relations deem to keep you. And it was no different for Jane Austen. When her father retired, she lost rights to her beloved childhood home in Stevenson, and all of her possessions, including bo Jane Austen is a household name, and we know very little about her. Historian Lucy Worsley seeks to change that by focusing on the famous author's life at home-- and lack there of one. What emerges is a story of the precarious business of being a woman in Georgian England. Your home is wherever your male relations deem to keep you. And it was no different for Jane Austen. When her father retired, she lost rights to her beloved childhood home in Stevenson, and all of her possessions, including books, were sold for the trouble. It began an almost nomadic existence for the unmarried Austen women, dependent on the generosity of more moneyed relations, living wherever they could be stashed conveniently and cost effectively. Worsley ties the circumstances of Jane's home life to that of the characters in her novels. For me, it's a bit contrived. Worsley's writing style is enjoyable, and infused with a wit would make her idol proud. Even so, I found this book dragged. There really isn't enough known about Austen to write a full length biography. I commend Worsley for not going down the road of many of her predecessors in trying to sensationalize or romanticize Austen or make her life into more than what it was. However, what that leaves is a short, rather dull story. Is it possible that someone so endearing and sharp in print as Jane Austen was in fact boring in life? Yes, I think so. Worsley makes her 350 pages by shifting focus to many of Jane's relatives. I read an advanced copy, so I don't know what changes have been made to print, but a family tree would have been a helpful addition. It seemed like every other female relative was named Fanny, and it was difficult to follow at times. This isn't a bad book, and Worsley is a good writer and historian, but it was a bit of a chore to finish. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me a copy of this book to review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tony Riches

    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

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is a non-fiction book about the Georgian author Jane Austen (1787 – 1817). The Georgian era covers the period in British history from 1714 to 1830 when the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV reigned. The Victorian era followed. The literature of the two periods differ, each mirroring the social customs that held sway. Georgian society is typified by joie de vivre, dancing and theater, as well as dissipation and extravagance, for those with means. There is less fi This is a non-fiction book about the Georgian author Jane Austen (1787 – 1817). The Georgian era covers the period in British history from 1714 to 1830 when the Hanoverian kings George I, George II, George III and George IV reigned. The Victorian era followed. The literature of the two periods differ, each mirroring the social customs that held sway. Georgian society is typified by joie de vivre, dancing and theater, as well as dissipation and extravagance, for those with means. There is less fixation on moral constraints in the former, more in the latter. The pendulum swings, changing direction from debauchery to prudery. Worsley’s book speaks not only of Austen’s life and the books she wrote but also of her era. Reading the book is thus interesting for two reasons—it will appeal to those searching for information about the author and to those curious about the Georgian era. It does not get sidetracked into a discussion of political events: the Napoleonic Wars serve merely as a background. Both Worsley and Austin zoom in on the lives of British middle- and upper-class women. Men are discussed in relation to their controlling influence upon women. Feminism is not a new phenomenon! Women were writing and having their voices heard even before the turn of the 19th century. Definitive source material concerning some aspects of Jane Austen’s person and life are lacking, but there remains still much information to study. It is evident the author has done a thorough job. Letters do still exist. The only picture we have of Jane is drawn by her three-year older sister, Cassandra; this drawing has however been improved upon when Jane gained fame. Worsley works with that information which is available, clearly stating what is and is not sure. She puts out varying suppositions and analyzes them. Her arguments are convincing. I am no expert whatsoever, but the conclusions she draws make sense to me. I like very much how she lays out the facts and then analyzes what is known. She is upfront. She states outright that she adores Austen; yet one never gets the sense that she vies from the truth or tries to bend facts. The author does not attempt to fabricate what is not known, although she does analyze what is not clear. We do know where Austen lived. We do know when and by what means her six books came to be published, the last not yet completed at her death. What is known about her death is that it was due to either Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma, possibly with depression and arsenic poisoning playing in too. We know of her fondness for the writings of Samuel Richardson and Frances Burney and her devotion to her sister, Cassandra. We know where she lived in her youth and where she resided after her father died and her brothers failed to provide her with a home. We follow her route of different residences from Steventon, in Hampshire, to Bath, to Southampton, back to the village Chawton in Hampshire and finally to Winchester. It Is not hard to imagine her longing for a permanent home. We can only suppose how perhaps the events of Jane’s own life are mirrored in her characters’ lives and the choices they make. Worsley draws numerous examples of where the events in the lives of Austen’s characters may be a rewriting of events in her own life. We can observe Jane’s dislike of her mother, but we do not come to understand why. When there is adequate information explaining underlying motives, the author speculates and explains step by step the conclusions she draws. I appreciate and feel comfortable with this methodology. What is known is presented. What is postulated is presented as such. I enjoyed the book because of what it has taught me about the Georgian period. I feel I have a better understanding of the author’s novels and her characters. Their brashness, pzazz and humor feel even more right than before I picked up this book. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ruth Redman. The author narrates the introduction and the epilog. She and a male narrator disperse ad hoc lines that pepper the text, quotes or poems for example. They are in this way appropriately separated from the surrounding text. This is effective. It adds clarity. Redman is however the primary narrator of the audiobook. Her reading is delightful. In Georgian times women would entertain one another by reading to each other. One felt that Redman was reading as maybe Jane would have spoken had she been reading the lines. Lovely is the adjective that comes to mind in describing Redman’s narration. The speed is perfect, and I had no trouble understanding what is said. She does not dramatize; she simply reads in a delightful manner. I do recommend this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Geevee

    I have yet to read a single Jane Austen book so why did I pick this hugely enjoyable and insightful read? Two reasons: An interest in 18th/19th century society and Lucy Worsley. This book is a superb telling of 18th century society and life - Jane's life - through her homes and it is ably done with passion and care that brings our subject and her family in to being. We read of early life at home in Hampshire and how the family lived together but with financial challenges that saw her mother and I have yet to read a single Jane Austen book so why did I pick this hugely enjoyable and insightful read? Two reasons: An interest in 18th/19th century society and Lucy Worsley. This book is a superb telling of 18th century society and life - Jane's life - through her homes and it is ably done with passion and care that brings our subject and her family in to being. We read of early life at home in Hampshire and how the family lived together but with financial challenges that saw her mother and (especially) father try their best for the children. The pictures painted by Lucy Worsley of Jane, her sisters, parents and wider family, friends and acquaintances brings them out of history, letters and paintings/drawings so that we learn of their cares, likes, dislikes and responses to situations. This creates a fascinating background to the people who live and work in the homes Jane lived in or visited. We read of furniture, food, chores, travel and finances. The situations and events are then projected back against these and the people involved. This coupled with Jane's, her beloved sister Cassandra's, and other's letters lets us into the minds of what was thought and said (or often not said). There is humour, tears, frustration, rejection and jealousy from all corners of the Austin and Leigh and extended families. As the book and Jane's life progresses the writing, the talent and the struggle to be published are covered; so well and so clearly with detail that one feels in the room when Jane meets a publisher or writes to seek a deal or help. We read of her brother's help to get a deal...but it is neither perfect or the step hoped for. Years pass by and the love interests come and go, as does the backdrop of Napoleonic war...to return later as the pesky Napoleon escapes his island prison and takes Europe by storm. The visits, stay-overs and moves to Kent, Lyme Regis, Bath, Winchester and more are all so well described as (some) family members inherit riches, get married, give birth, die in childbirth, go to sea (successfully) and into banking (less successfully) and manage houses of varying sizes. All these details and experiences are then shown to form parts of Jane's books and the characters who live within her pages. As time passes books are published but illness descends and we are taken towards the tragic early demise of this great author. We see how fine a sister Cassandra is as well as some friends and family. The final chapter discusses the works of Jane after her death and what happened to the people and homes from within the story. There is also a interesting thread throughout that shows how the family tried to tweak/re-write history around Jane (for the better or at least so they thought). This is a superb book. The discovery, research and creation of the story of Jane through and within her homes is superb. It is a trademark of Lucy Worsley's that this is so and why she is such a superb historian and communicator. As for reading Jane...I'll be on it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I'm not usually a fan of biography but this was truly fascinating: an homage to the single woman. As with many people of genius, her work never really brought her fame or wealth during her lifetime ( she made about £600) over her lifetime). The historical context of her life, spanning the napoleonic war, the details of the bawdy rowdy Georgian years and sensibilities, the irony that Austen, creator of the modern romantic sensibility should herself never marry or find that kind of love, very much I'm not usually a fan of biography but this was truly fascinating: an homage to the single woman. As with many people of genius, her work never really brought her fame or wealth during her lifetime ( she made about £600) over her lifetime). The historical context of her life, spanning the napoleonic war, the details of the bawdy rowdy Georgian years and sensibilities, the irony that Austen, creator of the modern romantic sensibility should herself never marry or find that kind of love, very much struck a chord with me. I chuckled at the fact that, while Bath is a city for Austen fans, Jane herself disliked it for its rowdy elements and was unable to write while living there! Recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    ★★★✰✰ 2.5 stars Although I did—for the most part—find Lucy Worsley's prose to be compelling, I thought that many of her arguments were unconvincing and biased. Of course historians have their biases, but shouldn't they at least try to distance themselves from their subject? The problem I have with this biography props up in the author's introduction: “While I’ll try to put Jane back into her social class and time, I must admit that I also write as a signed up ‘Janeite’, a devotee and worshipper. I ★★★✰✰ 2.5 stars Although I did—for the most part—find Lucy Worsley's prose to be compelling, I thought that many of her arguments were unconvincing and biased. Of course historians have their biases, but shouldn't they at least try to distance themselves from their subject? The problem I have with this biography props up in the author's introduction: “While I’ll try to put Jane back into her social class and time, I must admit that I also write as a signed up ‘Janeite’, a devotee and worshipper. I too have searched for my own Jane, and naturally I have found her to be simply a far, far better version of myself: clever, kind, funny, but also angry at the restrictions of her life, someone tirelessly searching for ways to be free and creative. I know who I want Jane Austen to be, and I put my cards on the table. This is, unashamedly, the story of my Jane, every word of it written with love.” Although in this instance Worsley is being upfront of her lack of objectivity, her biography on Austen seems quick to dismiss and criticise other historians' vision of Austen. She is critical of their attempts to romanticise Austen, both her personality and life. Yet she falls for the very same trap, as the Austen that emerges from this longwinded biography is very much a heroine, one that could easily feature in Austen's own novels. Worsley's cleverly implements certain sections of Austen's own letters to corroborate with her image of this author. At times her suppositions and speculations regarding Austen's character and motivation are made to seem as facts. Unlike other historians and biographers, who often misconstrued Austen's personality and life, Worsley seems to imply at a personal connection to her subject, one that makes her into one few capable to discerning the truth about Austen. Curiously enough Worsley reveals that: “I was once a pupil at the Abbey School myself, and Jane Austen was our most famous ex-student”. And often Worsley used this BBC-type of tone that sounded both patronising and childish. Her attempts to engage the reader seemed a bit cheesy. “What a treat. And just up the road from the cottage, at Chawton Great House, lived one of Jane’s favourite girls in the whole family, Fanny Austen.” There were lots of surelys and no wonders, and a lot of rhetorical questions, which yeah, didn't really work. If anything they reminded of her presence. “But if you follow me this far in the idea that Jane was undermining the very moment where you’d expect marriage to be most praised, there could be an explanation. Remember that ‘double-voiced’ nature of Jane’s letters? The same applies to her novels. At first reading, these are stories about love and marriage and the conventional heterosexual happily-ever-after. Only at the second does a sneaky doubt perhaps creep in to suggest that maybe marriage is not the best thing that could ever happen to these women.” Worsley's biography on Austen isn't as poignant or as revolutionary as its biographer seems to think. She treats her subject with too much familiarity, and her interjections had an almost jarring effect (there were a lot of “I think” and “I wonder”. An example being: “I hope that he hadn’t told Jane what he was doing, so that she did not have to face the instant rejection.”) Worse still is that Worsley bases many of her arguments regarding Austen's personality and actions on the author's own novels. While I'm sure that when writing her novels Austen will have drawn inspiration from some of her own experiences, to solely link her life to those of her fictional characters makes for a rather skewed account of the author herself. These comparisons were thin at best, and most of the time plainly misleading. “It has been suggested that with these clever layers of meaning, Jane was perhaps even more subversive than we give her credit for.” Worsley tries to elevate herself, suggesting time and again that only she views the true Austen (going against her very own words since she initially stated that her Austen was very much hers). Yet, to me, the Worsley's Austen is an unconvincing and unabashedly fictionalised version of the real author. This is a less a biography than a fictionalised take on Austen, one from a self-confessed ‘Janeite’ who is quick to knock down other historians accounts and readings of Austen's life and letters The biography also had this weird insertions that seemed adverts of some sort: “While Jane did not forget Lyme, the town did not forget her, either. You can still eat at Jane’s Cafe, walk in Jane Austen’s Garden, and buy souvenirs in the Persuasion gift shop today.” Still, I did find that when Worsley was merely writing about the Georgian era (the lifestyle and traditions of those of Austen's class). There were some interesting tidbits abut their customs and daily routines. Overall however I don't recommend reading this if you are looking for to read some informative, or credible, material about Austen. Worsley's constant snubs at her 'competitors' were tiring, especially considering that she seems to do exactly the same thing. Just because she is a fan doesn't make her opinion of Austen more valid or true. Yes, while everyone can certainly believe that they have a certain connection to an author or historical figure, to use this 'connection' to validate one's interpretation of this person is ill-advised. Excusing your partiality by saying that it was done 'with love' is a bit of a cheap trick. “I like to think that this last, insubstantial image of Jane running through the Hampshire grass in fact shows her running away from all the eager hungry biographers keen to get their teeth into her.” Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I was completely unprepared for how much I would love this biography of Jane Austen. For some reason, I expected it to get bogged down in too much detail or for it to be too academic. She does touch on some academic disputes in some areas but only enough to pique my interest. Lucy Worsley writes beautifully and seamlessly and her interest in and enthusiasm for in her subject is contagious. This is a very long book that it is fascinating from beginning to end. Not surprisingly, Jane had a strong I was completely unprepared for how much I would love this biography of Jane Austen. For some reason, I expected it to get bogged down in too much detail or for it to be too academic. She does touch on some academic disputes in some areas but only enough to pique my interest. Lucy Worsley writes beautifully and seamlessly and her interest in and enthusiasm for in her subject is contagious. This is a very long book that it is fascinating from beginning to end. Not surprisingly, Jane had a strong personality and knew her own mind to which we are privy through the letters which she wrote constantly to friends and family. She also kept a personal diary. It is mostly through these writings, along with some letters from friends and family upon which this memoir (and all academic discussion about Austen) is based and draws it's conclusions. Worsely studies these writings, sharing many excerpts with her readers, and allows us to understand the conclusions she draws and how she may differ from conclusions drawn by others. Through Worsely's eyes, we get to know Austen and her stoical, loving and humorous personality along with the part of her which could be a bit cutting towards people, authors and their books. We learn a great deal about Jane's family life and family members, some of whom were generous and kind and those who were quite the opposite. We also spend much time exploring every city and home in which Jane lived, hence the title of this memoir. Throughout her life Jane was uprooted countless times due to the changes in the fates and fortunes of various family members upon whom Jane was completely financially dependent. Several of the homes in which Jane lived were Bath. Before reading this biography my only notion about the city of Bath was from Jane's writings. Well, she left a lot out of the novels. Worsley draws a marvelous picture of the town, the squalor and the fading grandeur, the bathing habits and the coed baths. One would naturally think of Bath as a place of recuperation and health, but one risked one's life to actually live and bath there. I will say no more other than that I will never forget the Bath of the early 1800s as described by Worsley. Last, we learn of the life events which shaped Jane. All of these detailed aspects of Jane's life are stitched together beautifully throughout this biography and we are given examples of how Jane's life and thoughts about the society in which she lived, the people she knew, and all other aspects of her life were fodder for her beloved novels. We are given many examples of how all of these were worked into Jane's novels, but also how and why she had to be very careful about what she included. This was my favorite part of the biography. Jane wrote about what she knew and even advised a beloved niece aspiring to write a novel to do just that. I will read Austen's novels through new lenses from now on. Now, I want to reread all of Jane's novels all over again. Ruth Redman's narration of the audio version is excellent.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leigh

    As the title suggests this book is about the life of Jane Austen. It's written in a very accessible way and is therefore very easy to read. Some of the chapters are longer than others though, I read the book on my Kindle and most of the chapters were 8-10 minutes long. But a couple were 30 minutes long! Although this didn't impact my reading or enjoyment at all, I think this might be irksome to some. There is also a lot of information packed into the book and therefore the chapters, so people ma As the title suggests this book is about the life of Jane Austen. It's written in a very accessible way and is therefore very easy to read. Some of the chapters are longer than others though, I read the book on my Kindle and most of the chapters were 8-10 minutes long. But a couple were 30 minutes long! Although this didn't impact my reading or enjoyment at all, I think this might be irksome to some. There is also a lot of information packed into the book and therefore the chapters, so people may also feel a little bogged down by all the information presented. But again, this wasn't a problem for me, I enjoyed all the extra bits of information and think they helped make the book what it was. I loved the book! It was so fascinating to read all about Jane, her family, her friends and just how the world was back then. Jane and her family weren't overly rich, but they was definitely not poor either, they had nice homes with servants and food was always available. But they certainly didn't live in the grand manor houses that some of Austen's characters lived in. Which I found interesting as I knew next to nothing about how people of this standing lived! Jane's life itself doesn't sound very interesting; based on the facts that she never married or had children. She also seemed to have lived a quiet sort of life, she wasn't involved in scandals or anything like that. Which doesn't sound all that interesting, but in truth her life story is fascinating! Jane lived a life surrounded by people, her letters which we are frequently quoted throughout the book tell us about all their comings and goings. Jane travelled quite a bit, she had firltations, she danced she went to the beach and met the prince Regent! She was also a very independent and intelligent woman, which I think this book showed us. Jane didn't want to settle and marry just anyone, Jane wanted to marry for love and only love. I think anyone remotely interested in Jane Austen and the time she lived, should definitely read this! It's such a good and insightful read about a truly remarkable woman.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    First, thanks to Candi for bringing this to my attention. I am definitely a Jane Austen fan, but was always of the opinion that not much was known about her life because her sister Cassandra had burned many of her letters, at Jane's request. But in fact, a great deal is known about her because a great many letters survived, she had a large family interested in preserving her legacy, and her novels themselves contain many clues to her life and times. Lucy Worsley gives us Jane's life through the p First, thanks to Candi for bringing this to my attention. I am definitely a Jane Austen fan, but was always of the opinion that not much was known about her life because her sister Cassandra had burned many of her letters, at Jane's request. But in fact, a great deal is known about her because a great many letters survived, she had a large family interested in preserving her legacy, and her novels themselves contain many clues to her life and times. Lucy Worsley gives us Jane's life through the places she lived, and her few possessions. She never had a place of her own, as spinsters and widows were dependent on family charity for their survival in the early 19th century. Jane apparently had at least five chances at marriage, but never found her Mr. Darcy, and decided to let her novels be her children. This biography gives a fascinating history of her and her family, and my only complaint was that I would have liked more information about Cassandra, without whom Jane would not have been able to devote time to her novels. Now to get time to re-read her six published novels in light of what I now know about their creation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    My_Strange_Reading

    BOOK 100!!!! 😱😱😱😱 #mystrangereading Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A very interesting look at Jane Austen and her family's life. It was clearly very well researched, and I appreciate how as it followed her life it paralleled the books she wrote. Biographies are difficult for me to get through, but I found this one to be engaging enough to keep me curious and reading! 🏠 My biggest issue with this book was how she inserted quotes from the novels as though the character's dialogue was pr BOOK 100!!!! 😱😱😱😱 #mystrangereading Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A very interesting look at Jane Austen and her family's life. It was clearly very well researched, and I appreciate how as it followed her life it paralleled the books she wrote. Biographies are difficult for me to get through, but I found this one to be engaging enough to keep me curious and reading! 🏠 My biggest issue with this book was how she inserted quotes from the novels as though the character's dialogue was proof of the historical fact she was claiming about Jane. I know her books mirrored her life (hello, I'm a mega fan), but I don't think we can assume that there is enough mirrored to quote characters from novels as proof of the author's opinion. This fulfills No. 1 of #my2018strangepanzanellareadingchallenge BIOGRAPHY.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Davison

    I would like to thank the publisher for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 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 presen I would like to thank the publisher for a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 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 ------------------------------------------------ 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 :)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Abi White

    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?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This is a meticulously researched bio of Jane Austen, warts and all. We follow Jane and her family from home to home, including schools, visits, vacations, assemblies, even occasional Inns. This is a book by a Janeite for Janeites. There were some points where I was reading about cousins and neighbors and wondering 'wait where is Jane in all this again?' You really understand the 'genteel' poverty the Austen women suffered from after her father's death. And will marvel at how some relatives of me This is a meticulously researched bio of Jane Austen, warts and all. We follow Jane and her family from home to home, including schools, visits, vacations, assemblies, even occasional Inns. This is a book by a Janeite for Janeites. There were some points where I was reading about cousins and neighbors and wondering 'wait where is Jane in all this again?' You really understand the 'genteel' poverty the Austen women suffered from after her father's death. And will marvel at how some relatives of means could have easily elevated them but didn't. Ms. Worsley even points out how miserly their existence at the cottage compared to the luxury of the Knight family enjoyed only a few yards away. The text ends at 74% on the Kindle with the remainder of the book filled with acknowledgements and the meticulously researched footnotes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4.5] Worsley brilliantly and delightfully details Jane Austen's domestic life - her homes, habits, finances, writing, family relationships and more. The author's focus on the minute details of Jane's life was never tedious but quite captivating. Through the window of Jane's life, I also learned a great deal about life in Georgian England. I loved listening to Ruth Redman's wonderful audio narration.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Damaskcat

    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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    Lucy Worsley only narrates the introduction and epilogue of this audiobook, I was initially disappointed to discover. But Ruth Redman's reading of the main narrative preserves enough of Worsley's trademark enthusiasm to make it likeable and engaging, whilst lending a calm, measured tone suited to background listening. By the time the epilogue came round, I actually found it easier to listen to Redman as pure audio, whilst Worsley's highly animated style - reflecting her joy in talking about subj Lucy Worsley only narrates the introduction and epilogue of this audiobook, I was initially disappointed to discover. But Ruth Redman's reading of the main narrative preserves enough of Worsley's trademark enthusiasm to make it likeable and engaging, whilst lending a calm, measured tone suited to background listening. By the time the epilogue came round, I actually found it easier to listen to Redman as pure audio, whilst Worsley's highly animated style - reflecting her joy in talking about subjects she loves, more than the emotional tenor of the topic in hand during any one sentence - felt as if it would have worked best with visuals, like her TV programmes. And background listening was what I wanted: on certain historical and topics that create an atmosphere conducive to getting things done at home, and about which I found surprisingly little on iPlayer radio. (My other choice, as I was lucky enough to find I had two Audible credits when doing another free trial, was Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War.) I don't absorb information from audio as much as from written words - where every sentence is significant new information (as with fiction), or requires close consideration (some academic or controversial political topics) it is draining and difficult- but I have become better at it over the last few years, and enjoy radio programmes on subjects I already know a bit about, a peppering of new facts and opinions within a familiar context. Though rather than doing housework and cooking, I ended up lying down ill for much of the book’s duration, to which Jane Austen at Home proved equally conducive – after all, people were quite often ill 200 years ago. An Austen biography is, on a personal level, a blast from the past. As a precocious preteen (apologies for the Americanised, though useful, term) I declared that I was going to to start reading "grown-ups' classics", and on asking for recommendations, was advised to start with Pride and Prejudice (which I think I bought with a birthday book token). Before I turned 14, I'd read all of Austen's published fiction, including fragments, some of it more than once, and all such motley old biographies and souvenir books as the local public libraries could offer. (This looks very familiar). After that - aside from a couple of re-reads of Northanger Abbey, my favourite of her novels among an oeuvre I otherwise did not love - I ticked off and put away Jane Austen, secure in knowing what people were talking about when her books were mentioned or adapted. All this was some years before Claire Tomalin's gold-standard biography of 1997 was published. I did buy a copy of that in the late 90s, still feeling like something of an Austen expert (even if it had happened by circumstance rather than preference) who ought to know the book and have an opinion on it. But my low enthusiasm for her subject, university work, and illness clubbed together so that I read it only occasionally in disjointed instalments and didn't finish it. So I can't compare Worsley's offering with Tomalin's - why one should choose one or the other, or bother with both, pressing questions for some prospective readers on this new book's Goodreads page. Regardless, Worsley is a historian, and Tomalin is a biographer, a biographer 40 years her senior, and each will bring different things to the same story. Jane Austen at Home is a history book as much as it is a biography, and does the sort of things that you would expect a younger historian to do, revising a few old certainties, and utilising newer / fashionable historical lenses. Notably, we get a fresh, less romanticised look at the business with Tom Le Froy (contrasting with the film Becoming Jane), and attention to the increasingly popular field of history of the emotions: earlier biographers have attributed feelings to Austen and those around her via modern understandings of words, and by putting themselves (with all their twentieth-century acculturation) in their subjects' shoes. (Incidentally, I don't see why some current younger historians are so keen to stress history of the emotions as new, as if it was a 2010s trend. It has a lot in common with, and is in many ways a development of the mentalités approach which was already established in the 1970s, and Worsley, a little older than I am, doubtless encountered it as an undergraduate in the 1990s too. Though in the context of this book, I suppose, describing the history of emotions that way is respectful to forebears such as Tomalin, who may not have encountered it as an academic subfield.) There is, naturally also plenty of wider historical background here; it is always apparent that Austen's life and work happened during the regency of the dissolute future George IV, and the Napoleonic Wars. (The man-shortage after the First World War is a famous, and exaggerated, trope in writing about Britain and Europe in the 1920s and 1930s - but it is rather less well known that there was a more statistically substantiated similar issue during the lifetime of English literature's most famous spinster.) There are brief, but always justified and elegant, digressions on other features of life during the period, such as modes of transport, and medicine and attitudes to illness. One of my favourites, for its precision, was a listing of expenditures (in Chapter 24) highlighting how different relative costs were: over one year Austen paid £13 for new clothes, and £9 for laundry. You would have to live in dry-clean-only garments to get near that ratio these days. So it is not only a book about Austen specifically: it is about the life of women of the southern English lower gentry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. There are contemporary perspectives too. Weighing up features of Austen's last illness against competing hypotheses of Addison's, Hodgkin's, arsenic or something else, Worsley sensibly draws no absolute conclusion and does not rubbish any one theory. As on TV, her contemporary analogies make things feel immediate and alive, such as a house near a busy military route that might have been equivalent to living near a dual carriageway. I wasn't sold at first on her use of the 1990s and later 'friends as family' idea in discussing thirty- and forty-something Austen's social connections, given Jane's strong bond with her sister Cassandra, and the importance the Austens themselves placed on blood ties, as was customary at the time, but I grew to see how it worked as part of the book's perspective and project. History-writing inevitably contains the perspective of the time when it was written, as well as that of the time which is its subject. And this is a late 2010s portrait of Jane Austen which is subtly influenced by the recent resurgence of feminism, and has finally got over the idea, prevalent in popular culture since the Austen screen-adaptation boom (dating from the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice), that Jane Austen was a thwarted romantic heroine with her own Mr Darcy or Captain Wentworth who got away. In the introduction, Worsley explains that she draws on scholarship of the last decade about the influence of other women in Austen's social circle on her writing. Some were authors themselves, and are remembered nowadays only for their connection to her (a key acquaintance was perhaps with two sisters making a living as novelists, whom she met not long before beginning the publishing spree of her final decade); others were correspondents, and/or inspired characters - and her mother and sister were famously sharp-witted. Worsley's Jane Austen makes running jokes all her life about prospective beaux or proposals, sometimes involving distinctly unappealing local men, others realistic prospects, and one can never quite tell when she is serious, if she ever was. (There are plenty of quotes from the letters to this effect.) She is not a tragic heroine star-cross'd in love, but first and foremost a clever person with an eye for the irony and ridiculousness of the situation and expectations imposed on women of her class. She has had lucky escapes: from men she didn't marry who turned out to be sanctimonious, unpleasant, dull or frighteningly prolific fathers; from being barred from signing contracts as a married woman, and from the fates of a number of female friends and relatives who died or were permanently weakened in pregnancy and childbirth. (Some might argue that the childfree Worsley is influenced in this perspective by her own outlook, but it also helps rebalance the Becoming Jane type narratives, and emphasises the historical reality which a focus on Austen's young protagonists omits: that Regency marriage was no happy-ever-after for many people, especially women.) Austen’s awkward social rank means she made friends with others of ambiguous rank, such as a governess employed by distant, wealthy relatives. She is good with people in many ways, but not perfect. She was scornful about the unwell until she became seriously ill herself; she made unlucky decisions about money. (Worsley contrasts Austen's meagre earnings in the hundreds of pounds with the £11k and £17k accumulated by Burney and Edgeworth, but frustratingly does not explain what they did differently.) I was made to look again at the shift from Georgian to Victorian mores, a subject which has always intrigued me. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, it looked like a very strange time, as the way the present world worked was that things got more liberal – society at large was still in the wake of the 1960s and many ‘60s values’ were just obviously right, especially to political centrists and left-wingers. Fast-forward to the current decade and it feels like a realignment is in process; some things are becoming less liberal, but not everything, and the values of the 60s are critiqued and questioned by some schools of feminism and others on the left. I’ve said a few times to friends that some of our opinions make us like ageing 18th century roués disapproved of by strict young Victorians. Worsley is more concerned with paying close attention to the history than to making glib analogies. She explains that Austen, and more especially her peers who outlived her, chafed at the growing restrictions on women, and how walks like Lizzy Bennet’s famous trudge across fields would become less and less the done thing for middle- and upper-class women as the 19th century wore on. Worsley's enthusiastic new take on Austen, plus the passing of a lot of time, made Austen seem fresh and interesting again. I listened to this audiobook before the end of a nearly-year-long break from Goodreads, which also helped: I could just enjoy it as itself, and wasn’t in the awkward indie-hipster place I was whenever I saw Austen reviews and discussions, thinking, ‘I liked them a really long time ago before they were this popular, and now I find them a bit boring’. Aside from perhaps one sentence mentioning 'Mr Darcy' in *that* way, that unspoken assumption that everyone considers the character as some boyband-type heartthrob, (Have boybands done Regency-themed videos? They must have.) it was as if the book, and I, had managed to skip over the last 23 years of the Janeite Industrial Complex, which was wonderful. I've sometimes found its products superficially enticing as a sort of middle-England elegant trashy treat, a knowing opt-in to 'basic'ness, and then when I actually read a few pages of that ‘sequel’, or watched the film, I was bored and cringing. Austenland? Abandoned too soon for it to be right even to tag as abandoned. (I’d hoped it was a clever send-up of Austen obsessives, but it read too much like generic chick-lit.) In fairness, I never tried Longbourn, or that similar one by an established author that got good reviews and whose title I can't remember. But almost every time, that stuff was as much of a letdown as the fake plastic foam that was the reality of Chambourcy chocolate mousse (something else I consumed a lot of in my teens). And I didn’t gel with another significant area of modern Austen fandom: I hardly ever fancied the actors in costume dramas. Nowadays I can plausibly just say that most of them are too young, and that’s much simpler, somehow. Another of my resentments about Austen (none of which, by the way, were strong enough to stop me visiting the JA museum in Bath when I was on holiday in the area some time in the 00s) was concern about the influence that reading her books first among the ‘grown-ups classics’, and so many of them, might have had on me. (Because, when categorised that way, of their emphasis on romantic relationships as the primary concern of what I then felt to be ‘grown-ups’ and can now categorise as ‘people in their twenties’.) I also retrospectively felt patronised and pigeonholed by the male relative who’d recommended I start with Austen, and who didn’t really know me very well. However, I realised whilst listening to this book, at least it wasn’t the bloody Brontës! (I didn’t need anything else to promote the idea that tempestuousness was a prerequisite of being interesting – that may be a staple of art, but IRL it gets people nowhere very fast. Home and numerous other cultural bits and pieces were doing that already. I did read the main novel by each Brontë, but the three sisters were never ‘my thing’ the way Austen was for a few years, and I never understood why people like Miss Eyre so very much. Wildfell Hall is my personal favourite of theirs, and one of my favourite 19th century classics full stop.) What book would I have given or suggested instead? I’ve asked myself plenty of times over the years – for a kid that age who’d already read Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Ransome and other obvious crossover classics that bright children often read aged c.10-13. P&P as my first ‘proper grown-ups book’ was a landmark (anything available in Puffin classics, or stuff like Jonathan Livingston Seagull - animals not people, U-cert content, very short), and as such it seemed to have something important to do with ‘what being a grown-up was about’. And I felt the book had to be 19th century, because then one could rely on its not having obvious material of the sex-violence-and-swearing sort that schools and other families might deem unsuitable. Dickens was the obvious answer for a girl who often identified with male protagonists - and was living in a strict and sometimes volatile household - but now I’m also not sure that it was right to mark out one book or author as momentous. Just about everything else I read, I chose myself from shelves, after reading the back, or seeing it in lists in other books - and I didn’t feel that those books were singularly meaningful unless I found the content to be so. It’s too heavy a significance for one book or one author to carry, so I would let the kid choose in the bookshop or library and ask what such-and-such was like and see if it appealed to them. And actually explain that what was inside the book didn’t have to mean more about life than any other novel, just in case they felt the way I did at that age. It was great to have got further past something that had bothered me for years, and, even better, via a book by Lucy Worsley. Whilst Austen’s novels may not have been ideal for me to fixate on back then, her life was certainly a good thing for me to have read about. (Although perhaps the peripatetics and penury rubbed off a bit too much…) Her sense of humour about romance, and her career probably having been better because she was unattached, things that come through clearly in Worsley’s book, fit with the sort of stories about historical women that many contemporary parents are keen to give girls (albeit often in twee pre-packaged formats marked as gendered, rather than stumbling on stuff through personal exploration as one used to.) It’s only the lack of citations that stopped me giving the book 5 stars - I would have liked to feel more comfortable with the provenance of things Austen hadn’t written herself. (I’d have liked to hear them incorporated into the text, though I appreciate the majority audience for this audiobook probably prefers not to hear lots of clauses like, “As Jennifer Smith said in her 2006 paper, ‘Jane Austen and Her Doctors’,…” [fictional article].) But this is likely to be a problem with any non-fiction audio. With the proviso that it’s a long time since I’ve read anything else substantial about Austen, and this was audio so I didn’t necessarily notice everything, I wasn’t aware of any inaccuracies, only a few statements that could have been better supported: e.g. the odd aside like 4am as “the lowest point of the 24 hour cycle” for the human body – yes I’ve read something like that before too, but think it should be referenced (and recent research checked in case it has been disproven now). Worsley’s point about Austen being necessary for the Brontës’ work to happen – the Brontës as a reaction against Austen – was interesting, but I’d like to have heard more substance and references. And there really should have been more to back up a big claim in the social history sphere: that Austen’s novels were influential in increasing the acceptance of love-marriage in 19th century British society – this was mentioned almost in passing while wrapping up. Over all, though, Jane Austen at Home was most companionable and interesting, with the right blend of familiar and new, just as I had hoped when I started it. I rarely re-read books these days, but Lucy Worsley has converted me (or reverted me?) to the extent that I would, in theory at least, consider re-reading JA just as much as I would any other classic of her century.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    2.5 Stars In some respects, this book was a worthy addition to the saturated world Jane Austen biographies. It centers around the idea of the importance of a home in Jane Austen's life and writing. I enjoyed the author's emphasis about the single - and married - women who impacted Jane Austen's life and the way they banded about her. This is particularly contrasted with her more erratic brothers' behavior. Yet honestly, this book was a trudge to get through. I do not care for Lucy Worsley's style 2.5 Stars In some respects, this book was a worthy addition to the saturated world Jane Austen biographies. It centers around the idea of the importance of a home in Jane Austen's life and writing. I enjoyed the author's emphasis about the single - and married - women who impacted Jane Austen's life and the way they banded about her. This is particularly contrasted with her more erratic brothers' behavior. Yet honestly, this book was a trudge to get through. I do not care for Lucy Worsley's style at all. She interjects herself into the narrative far too often. She repeats facts and stories and quotes in a redundant and annoying manner. She makes a few points about sex that really are meaningless and- as one other reviewer pointed out - exist only for shock value. Austen's various suitors get drummed up and dismissed as unworthy. In fact, Worsley dismisses marriage and childbearing as often as she brings it up. The "modern" attitude pervades each page and seriously distracts from her point about a home. Finally, what annoyed me most consistently about this book was the way Worsley persists in "finding" Austen in her novels. She pushes the idea that Austen represented her views about life in this character or that; Austen's plots must reflect the emotion and characters of her life. I just don't buy it. I will swallow that she based Emma off of her two favorite nieces, but not that her writing represents some secret, deep feelings she couldn't otherwise express. As this author is ever so fond of saying, you find in Austen's works what you look for. And in that sense, I do find Worsley and I come to very different interpretations!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    It's a little embarrassing to admit how much I cried at the end of this book -- especially since it's not like I didn't know how things would end! But I think my strong emotional reaction is a testament to how deeply Lucy Worsley draws you into Jane Austen's world. And despite my (many) tears during the last chapters, the vast majority of this book is enjoyable to read. I love how Worsley takes little things like furniture purchases and uses them to examine the day to day details of Jane Austen' It's a little embarrassing to admit how much I cried at the end of this book -- especially since it's not like I didn't know how things would end! But I think my strong emotional reaction is a testament to how deeply Lucy Worsley draws you into Jane Austen's world. And despite my (many) tears during the last chapters, the vast majority of this book is enjoyable to read. I love how Worsley takes little things like furniture purchases and uses them to examine the day to day details of Jane Austen's life. I also love how she ties these details in with Austen's own letters to capture her spirit and humor. I'd highly recommend this to any Austen fans, even if you don't (like me) usually read a lot of biographies.

  23. 5 out of 5

    G.

    One, it is indeed a tragedy Jane died so early. Two, Victorian whitewashing of Jane's character by the general public and her family was vexing. Three, poor George Austen (one of the older Austen brothers). Worsley's "except George" simply killed me. And four, Jane Austen at Home might have been a random purchase, but it definitely turned out to be a lucky pick. A very comprehensive biography, definitely worth picking up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    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 searc 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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    A new biography focusing on the domestic life of Jane Austen by historian and curator Lucy Worsley. Lucy Worsley takes into consideration the most recent scholarship on Austen and draws conclusions from examining private papers to attempt to flesh out the mere facts known about Jane Austen's life. While Lucy Worsley is a fun and engaging TV presenter, her writing style is a bit dry. This reads like a traditional biography and not one of her TV shows, unfortunately. Having read extensively about J A new biography focusing on the domestic life of Jane Austen by historian and curator Lucy Worsley. Lucy Worsley takes into consideration the most recent scholarship on Austen and draws conclusions from examining private papers to attempt to flesh out the mere facts known about Jane Austen's life. While Lucy Worsley is a fun and engaging TV presenter, her writing style is a bit dry. This reads like a traditional biography and not one of her TV shows, unfortunately. Having read extensively about Jane Austen's life and times, this biography wasn't exactly what I was looking for. What I really liked was the quotes from diaries and letters of Jane Austen's contemporaries to give a better sense of what was going on at the time and what other women's lives were like. I also liked learning more about the extended Austen family and the affair of Stoneleigh Abbey. Also new and interesting is the fates of the Austen family homes. Lucy Worsley is guilty of speculating at times of what Jane actually meant. She also goes off on tangents at times on things indirectly relating to the home. Source material from Jane Austen is quite thin but I was expecting this book to stick to the subject of the home. A much better book about Georgian era homes and women is Amanda Vickery's Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England. Combine that with a good biography of Jane Austen and you'll have a pretty complete picture of what we know about Jane Austen. All the rest is conjecture. Be sure to watch the documentary that accompanies the book though. Lucy Worsley gains access to places not normally open to the ordinary public and visits places Jane Austen once lived. If you've never been on a Jane Austen pilgrimage of England, this is a must-see and even if you have, it's worth a watch.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    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, 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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kirsti

    Did you know that Jane Austen had an aunt named Philadelphia who most likely was a sex worker? I did not. I also didn't know that Covent Garden was the red-light district of London back in the day and that "apprentice hat maker" was often a euphemism for "performs sex work on the side." Poor Phila, just trying to survive after her parents died and her uncle left all his money to her brother for his education. Also, did you know that in her private letters Jane made jokes about sodomy? Very witty Did you know that Jane Austen had an aunt named Philadelphia who most likely was a sex worker? I did not. I also didn't know that Covent Garden was the red-light district of London back in the day and that "apprentice hat maker" was often a euphemism for "performs sex work on the side." Poor Phila, just trying to survive after her parents died and her uncle left all his money to her brother for his education. Also, did you know that in her private letters Jane made jokes about sodomy? Very witty ones too. Two of her brothers were in the navy, so I guess she would know about it based on that. No wonder the family burned so many of her letters. Anyway, this is a passionate yet clear-eyed biography that describes Austen's home life and her struggles to get out of genteel poverty while trying to be grateful for the scraps her family gave her. She had a reputation for being forthright to which I say RIGHT ON. And her family tried to prettify her life and legacy by saying what lovely manners she had and how nice her handwriting was and how good she was at housework, to which I say SHUT IT AND DON'T HATE HER BECAUSE YOU AIN'T HER. In short, this book is worth breaking out the CAPS LOCK key.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher. I enjoyed Worsley's approach in explaining Jane Austen's life according to her residences. The enthusiasm and detail that shines through kept me engaged from page one through to the conclusion. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain insight into the life of Jane Austen-not just her works, but how she lived her day to day. I can also see this as a useful companion book to a class being taught about Jane Austen, particularl I received this as an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher. I enjoyed Worsley's approach in explaining Jane Austen's life according to her residences. The enthusiasm and detail that shines through kept me engaged from page one through to the conclusion. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to gain insight into the life of Jane Austen-not just her works, but how she lived her day to day. I can also see this as a useful companion book to a class being taught about Jane Austen, particularly at the graduate level.

  29. 4 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    What a fascinating read! It is obvious that the author has thoroughly researched the life of Jane Austen and the bibliography at the end of the book is incredible. I really felt like Jane Austen's life came alive in front of my eyes as I progressed through the book and I purposely took my time to read it! Highly recommended if you are interested in a detailed portrait of one of England's best loved authors of all times.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Historian Lucy Worsley is someone I've associated with BBC TV programs about UK royalty so this is the first book I have read by her. Although very wordy in some passages, this is a well researched biography of Jane Austen. There are two points worth mentioning, Worsley does occasionally insert her personal opinions into the narrative but at least it is obvious it is opinion versus fact. She also includes passages from Austen's novels which contain various spoilers. At the time I write this, I h Historian Lucy Worsley is someone I've associated with BBC TV programs about UK royalty so this is the first book I have read by her. Although very wordy in some passages, this is a well researched biography of Jane Austen. There are two points worth mentioning, Worsley does occasionally insert her personal opinions into the narrative but at least it is obvious it is opinion versus fact. She also includes passages from Austen's novels which contain various spoilers. At the time I write this, I haven't tackled Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion so I found myself skipping over any paragraphs mentioning those books. I partially listened to this on audio (during March of 2019) and thought the narration by Ruth Redman was well done. My hope is the revelations contained in this biography will help me to appreciate and understand Austen's works more. She really was a trailblazer in many ways, paving the way for future female authors. As a member of the psuedo-gentry, Austen had certain advantages. As an unmarried female of the Georgian era she also faced many uncertainties while basically being dependent on the male members of her family for food and shelter. Throughout all that, Austen's one constant was writing and thankfully we have her enduring, sharp-witted novels to study and enjoy as a result.

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