Published by: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd.
ISBN 13: 9781473632240
Published: July 2017
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Lucy Worsley is easily my favourite historian (yes, it is possible to have such things, I also adore Kate Williams and Greg Jenner as very close seconds) and coming from her previous books, this doesn’t disappoint. We start with her introduction and what Austen means to her, and from there we launch into the early life of Jane. Worsley has seemingly everything at her disposal – letters sent to and fro from uncles and brothers-in-law, describing the nearby relatives and their health and complaints, as well as what the land was like around Steventon Rectory.
Mostly we come to learn as to what inspired Austen, and the themes of the books and how they reflect her life at the time. One may think that Austen’s books are all romance, when in fact Worsley points out well-thought observances about what else surrounded Austen, and what was truly important to her.
Although Worsley is a huge fan, she still accounts for Austen’s life quite fairly and matter of fact, not trying to twist the few facts known into something a bit more exciting or bittersweet. With wit and fondness, we come to learn about Austen from her highs and her many lows, and everything in between.
Split into four parts, we go from the younger years to when she had to travel, to being published and then the disasters. We then also have 42 pages of bibliography and notes, so if one ever wanted to look into anything (literally anything at all), Worsley has already done the hard work for us.
Throughout, Worsley speaks to the reader as if you’re old friends, chatting over a cup of tea in front of a roaring fire. She’s so constantly excited without failing enthusiasm about history, and her warmth could inspire anyone to find some enjoyment in the same. I would think that anyone would be able to find something in this – whether you’ve researched Austen before, or only read a few of her novels up until now.
This was a joy to read, and highly recommended.