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Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World [Paperback]

Claire Harman
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010
Part biography and part cultural history, this splendid book not only tells the captivating story of Jane Austen's life, but also her literary legacy. The slow growth of Austen's fame, the changing status of her work, and what it has stood for in English culture is a story of personal struggle and family dynamics as well as a history of critical practices and changing public tastes.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847675336
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847675330
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 515,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Claire Harman is the award-winning biographer of Sylvia Townsend Warner (1989), Fanny Burney (2000) and Robert Louis Stevenson (2005) and the author of the best-selling Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2009). She writes regularly for the literary press on both sides of the Atlantic and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2006.
She is currently writing a biography of Charlotte Bronte for the author's bicentenary in 2016.

website: www.claireharman.com

Product Description


'Splendid ... there is no doubt that Harman is the first to treat this fascinating subject in an accessible, lively manner unshackled by academic jargon. There is much to enjoy in this book ... it's the quality of the insights and the interpretations that make this book such a good read.' Sunday Telegraph


[A] deft, elegant exploration of the cult of all thing Austen. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The divine Miss Jane 24 Jun 2009
By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE
This is a witty & informative account of Jane Austen's reputation since her death in 1817. Although the recent TV & movie adaptations have made Austen one of the most famous authors in the world, her books were out of print for several years after her death. Her reputation was only revived with the publication of the first biography written by her nephew in the 1870s. That was when the cult of dear Aunt Jane, the refined, elegant spinster, began. Austen's reputation in the 20th century was enhanced by the scholarly editions of the novels published by R W Chapman which was the beginning of the academic critics' interest in her work. The explosion of popular interest which began with the BBC's Pride & Prejudice in 1995 has led to hundreds of websites, blogs, movies, sequels & prequels of the novels. Harman explores everything from chick lit & the internet to serious academic works in this exploration of how Jane Austen conquered the world.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How We All Became Janeites 19 May 2009
The reading public is not all clamoring for the next popular thriller. There are reasons to be confident that people are at least sometimes reading truly great literature. If you need evidence, look at the continuing popularity of the novels of Jane Austen. They have not always been popular, and were wrenched from obscurity decades after her death, but it does not seem as if they will ever need such a rescue again. In _Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World_ (Canongate), biographer Claire Harmon has given something of a posthumous biography, although she does provide some useful insights about Austen's life and attitude toward her work. The important chronicle here, though, is how Austen, well appreciated as an author by her family circle, had significant but minor success with publication in her lifetime, was forgotten, became a literary staple, and then became a phenomenon. Harmon expects that readers will know something of Austen's works (not a bad assumption to make), but her book even when concentrating on what academics have made of the novels is unstuffy and brightly written.

Austen died at age only 41in 1817. In the chapters devoted to Austen's life, Harmon tries (as have so many) to understand how this rural spinster could have produced such worthy novels. It was family influence that helped. Her family read. They talked about books, and they made fun of the bad ones and valued the good. "Jane Austen became a great writer," says Harmon, "partly because she was a great reader, and had a highly developed _consumer's_ understanding of her favourite form." Her family, though they loved her writing, underestimated the value of her novels, and certainly would have been surprised that generations later would find Austen a world-class author.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The rise and rise of Jane Austen 3 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read Jane Austen's novels when I was teenager and it is only recently I have returned to them with renewed pleasure. This book charts the progress of Jane Austen's reputation from moderate sales of the first 4 novels published - `Sense and Sensibility', Pride and Prejudice', `Emma' and `Mansfield Park'. `Northanger Abbey' and `Persuasion' were both published after her death in 1817. Some appreciated her writing then including the Prince Regent to whom `Emma' was dedicated, others thought it ephemeral and of no importance. All of the books were remaindered at some point in their early lives.

It wasn't until the late nineteenth century that her reputation improved and her books were reprinted and sold well. It was at that point that the critics started to take notice of the six novels and they were divided into two opposing camps. Rudyard Kipling wrote a short story about Jane Austen's work being read in the trenches during World War I and providing common ground between all ranks. Winston Churchill took refuge from the stresses of World War II in the novels. Others hated the books and saw them as dealing with a society that no longer existed and concentrating mainly on people of the middle and lower orders.

This book discusses some of the many film and television adaptations both in the UK and in the USA starting with Geer Garson in a much altered version of `Pride and Prejudice'. It also touches briefly upon the many books which have been written in the last 50 years about Jane Austen and about her work and also about the many many sequels and prequels which have grown out of the novels themselves. Blogs and web sites are also mentioned.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `What is all this about Jane Austen?' 21 Jun 2010
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
`What is all this about Jane Austen?'
`What is there in her? What is it all about?' (Letter from Joseph Conrad to H.G. Wells in 1901)

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 - 18 July 1817) is one of the most widely read writers in English literature. Her novels are amongst the best known in the English language, and have been adapted for film and television. Today, close to 200 years after her death, Jane Austen is more popular than ever. But why is this? During her lifetime she had little fame and her novels were not particularly popular. Sales were modest, and at least some unsold copies were discarded or pulped soon after her death.

Of course, for the many fans of Jane Austen, her current popularity is no surprise. It is, after all, clearly deserved. But those of us who are not totally part of the Jane Austen cult, it is interesting to learn more about the life, times and influences on Jane Austen, as well as the growth of the Austen industry. In this book, Claire Harman combines elements of classic biography with an analysis of the events that have influenced Jane Austen's posthumous popularity.

Picture Jane Austen: an unpublished author for almost 20 years. During this time she revised and updated her works, a process of continuous improvement which has rendered the published product almost timeless despite the period settings. She was undoubtedly ambitious, yet patient enough to negotiate with publishers.
Two significant events are identified as pivotal in Jane's posthumous popularity: the publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh's `A Memoir of Jane Austen' in 1870 and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in a wet shirt in the BBC adaptation of `Pride and Prejudice' in 1995. These are two very different events, speaking to the sensibilities of two quite different eras separated by 125 years.

`What would Austen have made of all of this?' I imagine that she'd be delighted.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars From obscurity to globality
In 1815, Jane Austen published Emma, dedicated by permission (or rather command) to the Prince Regent, who was Austen's highest profile fan, keeping a set of her novels in all his... Read more
Published on 22 May 2011 by Miss Moppet
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for the student of Jane Austen
Probably unusually, I read this book without having read any of Jane Austen's books although I have Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility in my bookcase. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2011 by Gerund
5.0 out of 5 stars "[She] gave away more about how women think and behave than any...
When the Archbishop of Dublin made this statement in a long article he wrote in 1821, just four years after the death of Jane Austen (1775 - 1816), he was recognizing the genius of... Read more
Published on 10 May 2010 by Mary Whipple
5.0 out of 5 stars We are all Janeites...
Claire Harman, author of the pseudo-biography of Jane Austen, writes a very observant book. I call this a "pseudo-biography", simply because Jane Austen lived only 41 years and... Read more
Published on 22 Mar 2010 by Jill Meyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Jane's Fame!
Witty,knowledgeable and perceptive about how fame and celebrity has always been manipulated by the media. Read more
Published on 14 July 2009 by Ms. Susan J. Brissenden
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Jane
The full title of this book is Jane's Fame - How Jane Austen conquered the World and it is hard for modern readers to realise there was a time when Jane Austen was out of print and... Read more
Published on 27 May 2009 by Elaine Simpson-long
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully entertaining and engaging
This is a delightful book and very well written. I must admit that I have never read any of Jane Austen's novels but have watched several television and film dramatisations of her... Read more
Published on 10 April 2009 by D. P. Mankin
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