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4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for the student of Jane Austen, 21 Jan 2011
This review is from: Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (Paperback)
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. Like most people, I have seen all the recent screen adaptations, thoroughly enjoyed them, and have been meaning to read the novels: one day.

It seemed an excellent idea to read a book on 'How Jane Austen Conquered the World' to get a handle on the literature before settling down with the actual novels. I wasn't disappointed.

The book is wide-ranging in its coverage, moving from what is known of Jane's life and family and her, and her family's, literary ambitions, her publishers, and on through time examining changing literary criticism, stage plays and current film productions. If anything, the book is too detailed for the casual interested reader - at times one feels overwhelmed with the seeming flood of information, as if Claire Harman is determined to pack in every last piece of research. And researched it is! The 'Select Bibliography' runs to 11 pages, some 180 entries, and the 'Notes' to 22 pages, the index to 18 pages. Accordingly, I would put it in the category of 'Must Read' for any undergraduate studying English Literature; I doubt anything of any substance has been omitted.

For the less studious, it is hard going at times. This is accentuated as there are just seven chapters to cover every aspect of the subject. Within each chapter, different threads are simply separated by double paragraphing and ***. It sometimes seems as if the component parts of each chapter have been a little cobbled together and, when there is an obvious lack of continuity, three stars are used to separate. You feel after each separation as if you are launching into something new without knowing where it's going. It would have helped enormously to have had some chapter subheadings.

It therefore falls slightly between two stools; solid chapters to appeal to the more casual 'reader' with detail making them rather indigestible; and the detail and rigour of research to appeal to the 'academic' but this being buried in lengths of almost unbroken prose.

But the book is worth criticising. It is a wonderful piece of research and writing and one marvels at the sheer endeavour needed to produce it! I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Jane Austen; but be prepared to take your time. It is not a book to be rushed.
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Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World
Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman (Paperback - 4 Mar 2010)
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