I am a list maker. Shopping lists, packing lists, gift lists, to-do lists– you name it. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing things off. As I get older and my memory gets worse, I also enjoy knowing that I’m not forgetting things that need to be done. Of course, this creates a new category of things-I-forgot-to-put-on-my-first-list lists, but that’s another story. The story I’m writing about today is the story of Jane and her novels. One might think that a book of lists would be boring. Perhaps even as dry as reading the outline of a lecture– especially for those who already have a good grasp on Jane’s life. The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen, however, is anything but dry or boring. Clearly a work of love and dedication, author Joan Strasbaugh has gathered not only what we do know (lists of all locations in each novel, lists of Jane’s residences) but also pulled together an impressive array of, if not unknown, unconsidered variables. There are lists of all of Jane’s relatives that she had contact with during her life. There are lists of neighbors, lists of suitors (both those whose hearts Jane broke and those who broke Jane’s heart), her music, her favourite foods and even her hairstyles! I was hooked.
Punctuated with period illustrations as well as whimsical original art, the lists are ordered quite methodically (see the “list” of contents at the front of the book) and highlighted with extracts from Jane’s own letters and novels wherever appropriate (most of the book!) I wished that Ms. Strasbaugh had included more of the dates and recipients of the letters, though most were to her sister Cassandra, and the dates can be had by searching either the Republic of Pemberley’s Janeinfo page, which has digitized many of the letters, or by searching through the published Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre LeFaye and available from Oxford University Press.
This is not a long read, nor a scholarly one. You might not use it to source biographical information (though the bibliographical “list” provided at the back of the book could probably set you in the right direction) but if you want to learn something new about Jane, or view her works and life in a different light, this book is for you. It should definitely be on your list of what to give the Janeite who has everything!
- List Price:
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (25 Jun. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1402282036
- ISBN-13: 978-1402282034
Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)