‘The perfect companion to the novels … Tremendous’ Joanna Trollope, Sunday Telegraph
‘A neat approach to biography, allowing Byrne to burrow deep beneath the surface of Austen’s existence. The result is a delightful and engrossing portrait’ Sunday Times
‘Byrne's essays add up to a fine appraisal of the novelist's environment, truly Austenish in the way they burrow into a sequestered and often secretive private world’ Observer
‘A perceptive and energetic guide to Austen and her surroundings … Byrne’s critical study consists of a series of beautifully written, interrelated essays … [her] style gives fresh charms to her subject matter. ‘The Real Jane Austen’ is bold, fast-moving and accessible’ Daily Telegraph
‘Engaging, compelling, a delightful and engrossing book. Of course we all know that the "real" Jane Austen will forever be a mystery, but most 21st century Janeites will adore this one. Byrne's passion is nothing if not persuasive’ Sunday Times
‘What is fresh in Byrne's biographical approach is her use of a succession of contemporary objects that Austen owned, or that might be seen in intimate connection with her interests … this adds an attractive immediacy to a well-known story … Byrne's affectionate study paints a pleasingly lively picture of Austen's life’ Independent
‘Brilliantly illuminating … riveting. By focusing, chapter by chapter, on one thread or another of Austen's experience, Byrne allows us to grasp the richness of her inner life’ Simon Callow, Guardian
‘The portrait of Austen that emerges is sparklingly multi-faceted, catching the light in intriguing ways … her Jane is far less likely to go for a quiet walk in the garden than she is to be whisked into town in search of a velvet cushion, a necklace or a smart new dress’ Irish Mail on Sunday
From the Back Cover
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things offers a startlingly original look at the revered writer through a variety of key moments, scenes, and objects in her life and work. Going beyond previous traditional biographies which have traced Austen's daily life from Steventon to Bath to Chawton to Winchester, Paula Byrne's portrait--organized thematically and drawn from the most up-to-date scholarship and unexplored sources--explores the lives of Austen's extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Through their absorbing stories, we view Austen on a much wider stage and discover unexpected aspects of her life and character. Byrne transports us to different worlds--the East Indies and revolutionary Paris--and different events--from a high society scandal to a petty case of shoplifting, She follows Austen on her extensive travels, setting her in contexts both global and English, urban and rural, political and historical, social and domestic--wider perspectives of vital and still under-estimated importance to her creative life.
Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austen's novel's often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane's own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer's world--a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine--hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.