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Jane Austen's World brought to life
on 18 January 2005
This is without a doubt one of the best Jane Austen related books. Le Faye starts with a concise biography of Jane Austen, to help readers put her life into some sort of historical context. The second part of the book deals with all sorts of Life & Times issues - carriages, clothing, occupations, architecture, coinage, filigree.... and of course she explains that Gowlands Lotion, so heartily recommended by Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, was actually a sort of chemical peel!
The third part of the book looks at each of the novels in turn, and includes the fragments The Watsons and Sandition. Le Faye gives a synopsis of the plot of each novel and along the way picks out things for us that would have needed no explanation to contemporary readers, but may now need some enlargement. For example in the Sense & Sensibility chapter she tells us about the places in London where the characters live or lodge, and what this says about them and their status.
On top of all this, the book is beautifully illustrated with period county maps, contemporary portraits that match Austen's character descriptions and of course illustrations of all the Life & Times elements discussed - filigree work, fashion plates, coinage examples, etc. In a word: Excellent!