TITLE: Jane Austen at Home
AUTHOR: Lucy Worsley
MY RATING: 5/5
*Synopsis taken from Goodreads*
“Jane Austen at Home offers a fascinating look at Jane Austen’s world through the lens of the homes in which she lived and worked throughout her life. The result is a refreshingly unique perspective on Austen and her work and a beautifully nuanced exploration of gender, creativity, and domesticity.”–Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire
Take a trip back to Jane Austen’s world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen’s childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses–both grand and small–of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a ‘life without incident’.
Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but–in the end–a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.
Illustrated with two sections of color plates, Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home is a richly entertaining and illuminating new book about one of the world’s favorite novelists and one of the subjects she returned to over and over in her unforgettable novels: home.
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As you’ll be aware if you are familiar with my blog, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, and so it takes a particularly intriguing title to prompt me to do so. However, given that Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors it was far from a chore to give this one a go. It was actually the cover that caught my eye first, I just thought it looked so pretty on the shelf, and once I saw that Lucy Worsley was the author I thought this one was a pretty safe bet. Whilst I hadn’t read anything by her before, I had watched some documentaries that she was involved with, and I was a fan of her approach.
The first thing I did when I picked it up was flick through the photos, this is a compulsion of mine with non-fiction texts. If there are any images I can’t help myself but to check them out before reading a word of the text. There is a lovely collection of pictures in this book, from the familiar image of Jane herself (the one created by her sister Cassandra), to perhaps lesser known images of family members. People aside, the many images of the different locations discussed in the text are a welcome visual. Of course the clue is in the title, this is a book that at its core is discussing the many homes that were significant in Jane’s life, so to see these places (some as drawings, and some as photographs) was wonderful. As with most non-fiction books the photographs included here serve to enrich the text, and are a welcome accompaniment.
Perhaps the overall highlight for me is Worsley’s writing style. Her vocabulary and structuring is such that it is easy to understand and follow what she is teaching. Furthermore, there is just no denying that she is a fantastic wordsmith, the story flows so well and it is a delight to read. This is not a book where you feel subjected to a relaying of facts, instead you feel as though you are hearing a story that could’ve been told by somebody living alongside Jane.
I must confess that this is my first non-fiction text about Jane Austen, I knew the basic details that are common knowledge, but besides that (somewhat surprisingly) my knowledge on the woman behind the books was pretty much non-existent. I learned a wealth of new information from this text, and I’m sure my reading of this will enrich Austen’s novels even further as I inevitably reread them again and again. In fact, I’m pushing rereads of all of them further up on my list of priorities because I’m really craving some Austen now.
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I would absolutely recommend this book, particularly (of course) to Jane Austen fans. In my opinion this book serves as a great accompaniment to Austen’s novels, and by reading this as well it enriches the theme of home that is often prevalent in her works of fiction.
Overall this is a fascinating and absorbing portrait of Jane Austen. By stepping through the doorways of the places where she penned her Classics, one can gain an understanding of not only her influences and inspirations, but of her also – the woman behind the pen. The phrase ‘a must read’ is perhaps used too often nowadays but in this case it is the perfect description.
Have you read Jane Austen at Home? What did you think about it? If you haven’t read it do you think that you will? As always I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!