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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Life in Small Things
This is a biography with a difference, in which the author takes an item that Jane Austen either owned, used or would have seen and uses it as a springboard to discuss aspects of her life. These range from an East Indian Shawl, which leads on to discussions of husband hunting in the Raj, the harsh realities of the Georgian marriage market and even the French Revolution;...
Published on 6 Feb. 2013 by S Riaz

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as real as all that
Paula Byrne's Jane Austen is as much a product of the imagination as all the other Jane Austens of biography. It must be so because we have - as Byrne candidly admits - so very little evidence about Austen's life. There never was very much. Austen was an almost entirely private person, and her devoted sister, already by the 1840's experiencing the over-enthusiasm of...
Published 20 months ago by C. Wake


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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research, 26 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Kindle Edition)
A thoroughly researched examination of some artefacts associated with Jane Austen which provide new insights into her life. She was well travelled and had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances that informed the characters and story lines she used in her novels. She was not the country mouse daughter of a clergyman so often portrayed. My only quibble could well be with my Paperwhite kindle- it frequently flipped into the notes at the end of the book when I was turning the page; very annoying! It took me ages to scroll back to where I was in the book. Is this a common thing with the Paperwhite with non- fiction books that have notes? It also happened to me when I read "The Duchess" by Amanda Forman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great new insight into Austens novels, 11 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Kindle Edition)
I wasn't sure I would find this interesting as it is such an unusual take on a biography but the more I read, the more fascinating it became. I thought I knew Jane Austens work pretty well but after reading Mansfield Park and Persuasion again I found so much more to understand that had passed me by before. You tend to take for granted that Austen is knowledgable about the Church, the Navy and sugar plantations and social distinctions, but Paula Byrne gave me a much greater insight into these aspects of her novels. If you enjoy reading Austen for the pleasure of her language and the witty insights into her characters, this book will bring a whole new dimension to her works. Can't recommend it highly enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best biography, 1 April 2014
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen (Paperback)
Ms Byrne considers a series of real articles from jane Austen's life and uses them to illustrate gear character and experiences. Jane is reprinted as sharply witty, worldly, knowledgeable about politics and outgoing. I never believed her brother's description of her as prim, sheltered and religious .
I can picture her writing stories for the family in her vellum notebooks -especially being rather fond of notebooks myself!
On the negative side , I do feel I am drowning in historical detail at times but then the narrative keeps me interested and sweeps me on to the next item
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5.0 out of 5 stars very readable - just not long enough!, 28 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Kindle Edition)
A very original approach to biography, which dips in and out of Jane Austen's life via a variety of objects linked to her - some more convincingly than others (I was delighted at the idea of the 'lapdesk', for example). The result is a somewhat patchy survey of Austen's life, not always chronologically ordered, and some parts left me wanting more; her final illness and death and the reasons for it are barely touched on, for instance. But overall it is tremendously readable and full of delightful snippets of information about Austen and her time. i just did not want it to end!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, 2 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book. I would clumsily liken it to eating a box of expensive chocolates - I found I preferred to savour each chapter slowly. I could have devoured the whole book in one go, but wanted to make the pleasure last. A linear approach to anyone's life does not tell you much - born such and such, lived in such and such place and died on such and such date. This innovative way into Jane Austen's life and times told me so much more. Worth the paper it is written on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I stepped into her world, 16 May 2014
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen (Paperback)
Having read widely on Jane Austen, it was an utter treat to see her in a new light and, as a consequence, her novels. I couldn't put the book down, I have been endlessly relaying details to anyone who will listen and I thoroughly recommend it. My favourite story: Jane Austen, aged 6, and her three year old brother walked 6 miles to meet Cassandra and their father in a coach. There was something wonderful about finding out that Jane Austen's life was a wonderful adventure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable., 21 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen (Hardcover)
I've just finished this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've read many books on Austen and am a big fan of her novels. The first two chapters are a bit heavy going. There are an awful lot of names to keep track of. However, once I got past this I was riveted. I couldn't put it down. I loved all the quotes from her novels. Makes me want to read them again. I found the Epilogue very poignant. A lovely end to a great read.If you're an Austen fan don't miss out on this book.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This insightful, fascinating perspective on Britain's most beloved novelist is a must-read for all literary fans & aficionados!!, 15 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Real Jane Austen (Hardcover)
Reading `Pride and Prejudice' or `Northanger Abbey' from a young age are some of my fondest memories, as my childhood, teenage years and adulthood have been interlaced with Austen's elegance, erudition and perception on romance. Her stories (read in books and watched on film in numerous adaptations) are as dear to me as history itself, for they speak of truth and are a perfect example of acute character-study. Austen understands people so well that regardless of whether it is 1800 or 2013, we are able to relate to her works and as a result can spot a Cornel Brandon or a Lizzie Bennett anywhere.

This beautiful, exquisite book is a delight to behold and is something that many an adoring fan of Jane Austen will treasure for all-time. This landmark biography reveals the woman behind her works, by painting a vivid picture of this iconic writer whose entire person has altered and defined our lives (for I cannot think of anyone who has not herd of Austen?!).

In this new biography, bestselling author Paula Byrne explores the forces that shaped the interior life of Britain's most beloved novelist: her father's religious faith, her mother's aristocratic pedigree, her eldest brother's adoption, her other brothers' naval and military experiences, her relatives in the East and West Indies, her cousin who lived through the trauma of the French Revolution, the family's amateur theatricals, the female novelists she admired, her residence in Bath, her love of the seaside, her travels around England and her long struggle to become a published author.

Byrne uses a highly innovative technique whereby each chapter begins from an object that conjures up a key moment or theme in Austen's life and work--a silhouette, a vellum notebook, a topaz cross, a laptop writing box, a royalty cheque, a bathing machine, and many more. The woman who emerges in this biography is far tougher, more socially and politically aware, and altogether more modern than the conventional picture of `dear Aunt Jane' would allow. Published to coincide with the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice, this lively and scholarly biography brings Austen dazzlingly into the twenty-first century...

Utterly absorbing, vibrant and beautifully detailed this captivating, enchanting read is just wonderful and is something that certainly brought a sense of nostalgia to mind. Austen's stories are so familiar to so many and if asked `do you think that he is like a Mr. Darcy or a Willoughby?' most of us would be able to reply, but it does beg the question- what about Jane. This non-fiction narrative (that reads like a novel) is full of rich detail, extensive research and fascinating facts on a woman who captured the hearts of many and yet who remained unmarried herself. Highly readable, warm and witty this brilliant book is a must-read and one that I guarantee you will find incredibly hard to put down!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Approach, 30 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen (Hardcover)
All eighteen chapters refer to objects which were important, in different contexts, to Jane Austen and her family and the society in which they lived. The detailed descriptions of these objects and their connections with Jane Austen are fascinating and well-researched. This is a new and different approach to presenting Jane Austen and her legacy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining, historically fascinating and a great read., 7 Feb. 2013
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JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Kindle Edition)
I've only recently begun reading Jane Austen and, sorry, I never took the time to find out about the woman who was, and still is, hugely significant in terms of history and literature. Where do you begin with Jane Austen? There are so many books about her. I began my search criteria by looking for something entertaining. I wanted to be entertained not thrown into dry, historical research. I picked the right book. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things reads like a novel and deserves 5* because it hooked me in from the start and kept me interested to the end. Not an easy achievement!.

I enjoyed the unusual perspective used by the author to open up Jane's world through the exploration of a series of items. Each item being used to start a discussion around the social, emotional, criminal, political, domestic, and other, elements of the world around her. Some of the information highlighted in those extracts was incredibly informative for a Jane Austen novice such as myself. It hadn't occurred to me that travel would have been so limited for Jane not because of any issues of wealth or status but; because of the war. That further opened my eyes to some of her greatest characters; military men. That's the strength of the book. Informative and entertaining. Paula Byrne presents Jane as a 'real' person and she emerges from the paper pages as a warm, solid, intelligent and worldly woman.

Happy to recommend and I'll read more by both Jane Austen and Paula Byrne.
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