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Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels [Hardcover]

Deirdre Le Faye

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Packed with knowledge! 2 Feb 2003
By Kate Jayne - Published on Amazon.com
I am a Jane Austen fan, to say the least. I have read all her works and enjoyed them. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact that I knew little about culture and life in her day. When I saw this book I was very excited. It gives a brief history of England (during the time of Jane Austen's life), a biography of Ms. Austen, explination of the culture, and detailed explinations of each book. This book is packed with pictures and maps that are also very helpful and give each of Jane Austen's stories a "face." If you are a Austen fan, you need to read this book!
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit on the disappointing side 19 Feb 2005
By Dee - Published on Amazon.com
Being a bit of a Jane Austen magpie and already owning other books by Le Faye, I looked forward to gaining more background to the time period with this book. While there was much of interest, I'd have to say that overall I wouldn't recommend it. There were some inaccuracies in the plot summaries (minor, but there all the same), but the biggest problem for readers who may be new to Jane Austen was the lack of delineation between the real people (family members, friends) mentioned and characters from the books. I could see this becoming fairly confusing for someone who hasn't already read other biographical material. Still, it's a decent read and the information presented may stimulate a person's interest enough to want to find out more.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful glimpse into Jane Austen's world 21 Aug 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Such a nice book! This is a cozy volume, filled with background information on Jane's life, her novels, and the Regency era. Excellent pictures, interesting and well-written text. A perfect book to peruse while you drink a cup of tea on a winter's night. Would make a great gift for any Jane Austen lover.
3.0 out of 5 stars Attractive Book But Disapointing Content 13 Nov 2011
By Jill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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).
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant book 3 Nov 2011
By M. Hoyt - Published on Amazon.com
A very beautifully produced book, full of period illustrations in color (except when the original wasn't) and free of the pop-psych nonsense that various other Jane Austen books have thrown at us. I especially appreciated that in the latter part of the book, which covers each novel in detail, the author has provided us with contemporary portraits of Georgian people that she thinks resemble the main characters in the books. The only one I disagree with is her selection for Mr. Darcy - not haughty enough. She even shows us what she thinks might be the portrait that Jane Austen's letters refer to as being the picture she saw at the Royal Academy that was clearly of Mrs.Bingley (nee Jane Bennet). I rather wish she'd provided us with several choices for each character, so we could choose which one we think is most like our favorite (or least favorite) character - but I expect the publisher would have shrieked at so many more color illustrations.
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