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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are all Janeites..., 22 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (Paperback)
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 left very little in actual biographical material. Some letters to relatives and original copies of her work, have had to suffice to the many biographers through the years. Harman, therefore, after recounting the basics of Jane Austen's life and her family life, concentrates the rest of her book on how Jane Austen and her writing has been perceived in the almost two hundred years since her death.

"Janeites" appeared within 20 or so years after her death. Her work fell out of favor by publishers in the 15 or so years after her death in 1816, but interest was renewed after family members had her work reprinted in the 1830s. While she had achieved a limited popularity for her writing during her lifetime - her name was never printed on her books, rather "A Lady" denoted the author - her fame took off in the 1830's. Her nephew, the son of her favorite brother, wrote a biography of her in 1869, which helped to spur further interest in the long-dead author. Her work, the six novels she wrote, soon gained an appeal to readers in England, and then European and American society. Her work was popular by soldiers in the trenches in France in WW1.

It has remained popular and a group of readers - mostly women, but a few men - called "Janeites", who have, in a sense, caused Jane Austen's work to go beyond published works to movies and TV series. The first "Pride and Prejudice" movie, filmed during the early years of WW2, had the temerity to actually CHANGE a very significant plot line - Lady Catherine deBurgh's interference in Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship. I am still in shock, forty years after seeing this, this..."desecration" in my high school English class! Thank god subsequent film versions of the book have remained true to the author's plot lines. (Not including, for instance, the adding of a fictional scene of Darcy leaping into a pond - be still my heart - in the 1995 A&E/BBC mini-series.) All of Jane Austen's works have been filmed; some, like P&P, many times.

Harman does a very good job explaining the "Jane explosion" on to the world. Her book's a very good addition to the library of any "Janeite".
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Jill Meyer
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