We must confess that we expected something rather different from 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen. We expected something more like a list of overlooked scenes from the novel, or explanations of references to commonplace items or ideas from Jane Austen’s time, long since forgotten. We are glad to have our preconceptions destroyed in this case, because what we received is much richer: a book truly about Jane Austen.
The author, Patrice Hannon (author of Dear Jane Austen), has put together a book packed with biographical information and insights into Jane Austen’s novels. We often are asked to recommend a first Jane Austen biography, and we think this beautifully-presented volume would be an excellent choice for any new or longtime Janeite.
The book is organized in sections relating to Jane’s childhood, young adulthood, her writing career, her later life, and her legacy. Each of the 101 Things explores an aspect of Jane’s life or work, following the timeline of her life and how the things and people she knew are reflected in her novels. As in her first book, the author shows her deep knowledge of and insight into her subject. Ms. Hannon has an engaging writing style, and the book is easy to read without being lightweight; scholarly but not stuffy. Any biographical work about Jane Austen requires a certain amount of authorial speculation, and Ms. Hannon occasionally indulges, but her speculation is intelligent and knowledgeable, which must disarm reproof.
Like many of the Jane Austen-related books currently being published, this book is being positioned as a companion volume for the film Becoming Jane. We hope that viewers of Becoming Jane who are curious to learn more about her will find this volume and discover, as the subtitle claims, the truth about Jane Austen.
Publisher: Adams Media Corporation (27 April 2007)
Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and The Cult of Da Man. She is the author of the recently published Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World.