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Jane Austen: A Life [Paperback]

Claire Tomalin
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Jane Austen: A Life Jane Austen: A Life 4.3 out of 5 stars (19)
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Book Description

30 Nov 2000
From her study of the Austen family papers, Claire Tomalin paints a rich, tragi-comic picture of the Austen clan and their neighbours, reaching the conclusion that the facts of Jane Austen's life were even more extravagant and romantic than her fiction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (30 Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140296905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140296907
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Claire Tomalin was literary editor of the NEW STATESMAN and SUNDAY TIMES. Her two previous books (both in Penguin) were the highly acclaimed and award-winning THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (about Dickens' mistress) and MRS JORDAN'S PROFESSION. She is married to Michael Frayn and lives in Camden Town, north London.

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The winter of 1775 was a hard one. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I first read this book shortly after watching the television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I wanted to learn more about the creator of Mr Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet and Pemberly.
The book gives a clear readable account of Jane Austen's life. Remarkable, as most of her letters were destroyed after her death and she never kept a diary. It gives a strong flavour of Regency life in England as it follows the fortunes of the extended Austen family.
What I loved most was the way in which Austen's novels were discussed and possible inspiration for characters or plots given. I very soon "got into" this biography, becoming immersed in the life of Jane and the family; caring about what happened to them.
Even if you have only read one of Jane Austen's books you will enjoy reading Claire Tomalin's biography. Jane was not the prim-and-proper shrinking violet we have been led to believe. Although a dutiful daughter she could have a wicked sense of humour and a biting wit. Claire Tomalin suggests that Austen would have been a modern and forward-thinking writer if transported to the present day.
Newly available evidence on the cause of her death makes interesting reading as does Jane's family tree; the Austens are kept track of right down to the present day.
All in all a good read and a delve into society life at the turn of the nineteenth century.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could this be the last word on Jane Austen? 31 Dec 2003
Jane Austen's stocks rise higher and higher as the years go by. Several of her novels continue to feature in bestseller lists, film and TV adaptations of them abound, and biographies appear regularly. This masterly biography, by Claire Tomalin, is the seventh Jane Austen biography I have read in the past twenty years.
Claire Tomalin examines her elusive subject from very possible perspective. The Austen genealogy is probed, every known neighbour, witness, and every witness's evidence is weighed and balanced, Jane Austen's writings are examined and assessed, and the situations of her brothers' living descendants are sometimes mentioned. Publishing and republishing histories are given, a family tree is included, and the many illustrations are given punchy captions. Gracing (or disfiguring) the cover is the only known pictorial representation of Jane Austen, an unfinished sketch done by her sister Cassandra, a sketch that was not discovered until long after Jane and Cassandra had died and which a niece said was "hideously unlike" her aunt.
Don't assume from all this that the book is merely an exhaustive effort of plodding detection. Sensitive and intelligent guesswork is here. Brilliant deductions are made. What is known, for example, is that the Austen daughters and their parents had no permanent home during the "unproductive" decade when Jane was in her 20s and early 30s. What is also known is that Jane Austen had drafted three of her novels before this, as well as the novella "Lady Susan". The deduction that Claire Tomalin makes from this evidence is that Jane Austen must have protected and cared for her manuscripts like a mother with newborn babies.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of detection as much as biography 1 Feb 2006
Very little of Jane Austen the person remains for any biographer to get their teeth into. Most of her letters were destroyed by family members presumably anxious about their contents. Claire Tomalin shrewdly speculates on why this could be, concluding from what evidence she can find that while Austen was a dutiful daughter living a simple life with her family, she was also clever, outspoken and provocative. Virtues that seemed, at various times, to unsettle and disturb relatives and friends and made her possibly disliked by some.
The other amazing thing is that there exists only one line drawing to show us what Jane Austen looked like. There is no painting or silouette of her, and the line drawing was done by her sister Cassandra, not a professional artist. The rest of the Austen family all had their portraits painted at some stage. This adds to the mystery, unless a portrait exists somewhere that hasn't been unearthed yet.
Somehow, through clever use of what few letters exist and some thorough historical research, you get a real sense of the time and circumstances that Austen lived through and how those experiences created the novels we are left with today. It's a brilliant and fascinating read that very quickly drenches you in Austen's social and emotional world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently written and highly insightful 30 Jun 2009
Never for a moment dry as biographies can be, an achievement in itself given how little information there appears to be to go on. It may be annoying to modern fans that there appears to be so little information about Austen to be gleaned through her own letters and papers, but this appears to be the way she wanted it. Instead much of the events of her life and her character are pieced together through the letters and recollections of her veritable army of family, friends and neighbours. Some may be diasppointed by this but the results are truly fascinating. The irony that the microscope which Austen turned on society in creating her novels is focused on her own life (however inadvertently) by the members of that society is not lost on the reader. Tomalin also offers fresh insight into the novels themselves in discussing Austen's creation of them, and leaves the reader longing to revisit the well-known novels for themself, as well as Austen's earlier and less well know work. The tantalising prospect of what her last, unfinished novel, Sandition, might have become is dangled and then snatched away. I read this in 2 days - definitley a must for any fan.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written book, just one slight query
This is a very well written biography which provides full details of the life of Jane Austen and her relatives, written by someone with true writing talent. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. N. Ennos
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect item
Perfect item, thououghly matching description. No delays in arriving date. Absolutely nothing to complain about. Satisfied both of article and of service.
Published 20 months ago by Gilda Sancarlo
4.0 out of 5 stars No issues
This was a present for a friend so I haven't read it. However it arrived on time, packaged well and there were no problems with it. Read more
Published 21 months ago by BC
5.0 out of 5 stars jane Austin
This is a fabulous book. I will read it again as there is so much information in it. Have become more of a Jane Austin fan now.
Published 23 months ago by Cath
4.0 out of 5 stars very readable but with limitations
Well worth reading for anyone interested in getting a good general sense of Austin's life and times. Read more
Published on 7 Dec 2011 by sttb0937
5.0 out of 5 stars Not such a plain Jane
With the help of regular excellent television and film adaptations of her books, Jane Austen stock has never been higher and many more people know of her now that ever before. Read more
Published on 8 Sep 2011 by RR Waller
3.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen Biog
An excellent read for anyone interested in the reality of Austen's life and family. Explains and gives evidence for the origins of her style and imagination. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2011 by Anillorac
5.0 out of 5 stars Both scholarly and readable.
Although I have read all Jane Austen's novels several times over a long period of time, I didn't know much about her life. Read more
Published on 26 Dec 2010 by Dr. P. M. Stoneman
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen: A Life
Excellent, gave me a good sense of her life, which has helped me with the course I am on - Analysing Literature. We are studying Emma.
Published on 6 May 2009 by S. E Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive and fascinating
This is a biography that works as a fascinating and moving story in its own right. Claire Tomalin uses every available scrap of evidence to put together a surprisingly convincing... Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2008 by Jane
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