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. Like many writers and artists, there is not a vast collection of biographical records and artefacts to draw on; her 17th century house museum at Chawton is sparse in its collection, although, like the Brontė's manse at Haworth, it does help to give the flavour of the time and a visit to Bath will add the rest.
Just as Brontė biographers look to Branwell's life for some of the more extreme characters his sisters created, Tomalin uses Austen's life to look for characters, events and settings she experienced then wrote about - a good trait in a biographer and one which links the books clearly to the life, allowing the biographer to root the boks in the life story and "vice versa".
The impression left by Tomalin's biography is that Austen was more dynamic, ambitious and out-going than some of her characters, although there are obviously flavours in Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse, "handsome, clever, and rich" but without some of the less endearing aspects; she is shown to have had a good sense of humour and a wicked wit. In many ways, this is obvious as the author and keen observer of so many wonderful stories which "many could have written but did not".
Some recent information and research into possible causes for her death are also included.