I found this book disappointing and would not likely have purchased it if I could have looked through it in advance. The information isn't detailed enough (or footnoted) to be a useful reference work (I have better sources of all it's information), nor are there enough unique pictures/illustrations for it to hold my interest as a visual reference. I was hoping it would have more illustrations, particularly pictures of items mentioned in the novels that modern readers might not be familiar with - while there are a handful featured (a black and gold japanned table cabinet remarkably like the one described in Northanger Abbey, for example), I'd like to have seen more of this and less plot synopsis. It's intended not as an exhaustive history of course, but an overview. I would not normally buy a history book that doesn't have notes/sources, but as the author is a noted Austen scholar I trust its facts to be correct. The fun twist here is that Le Faye relates the history to Jane Austen specifically, either her books or self/family/friends.
All this being said, it's a handsome volume printed on high quality paper that would be a nice gift for a new Austen fan or someone who is not already quite familiar with late 17th-early 18th century England. Note the cover dust jacket on this (2002, Harry Abrams, NY) edition has the same illustration as an edition of the similarly titled Jane Austen's World by Maggie Lane (2005 Carleton Books) - so just make sure you have the right one before checkout! The Lane book, as well as Jane Austen's Town & Country Style by Susan Watkins are actually more along the lines of what I was looking for.
The first half of the book covers "the World" as it relates to Jane Austen: there's a concise history of her family and the places where they lived, and briefly, on the publication of the novels. Subjects also include: Royalty and the Court; the Regency; foreign affairs; the development of the English countryside; travel and transport; London; social ranks; Male occupations (including military careers), education, dress and pursuits; Feminine occupations, fashions, and cosmetics; social activities; cultural pursuits; letters, diaries and journals; needlework and handicrafts; meals and food; shops and shopping;
stately homes; the cost of living; fictional houses; domestic interiors; furniture; sanitation; heating, and lighting.
In addition to the illustrations there are period maps of relevant parts of England, such as Jane Austen might have used, for those of us (most of us) who don't have the rare, original guidebooks.
Approximately half the book is the synopsis of the plots of the novels -but there is also some explanatory material about various relevant things, and this section is likewise illustrated (e.g., portraits of people who could stand in for certain characters, engravings and photos of places that fit the time period/description of homes in the novels - not that Le Faye is suggesting any of them were Austen's inspiration - it's just for fun).