Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Jane Austen Handbook

Title: The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World
Author: Margaret C. Sullivan
Genre: Non-fiction, Jane Austen
Pages: 224
Date Finished: 29 Feb 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

This is a delightful, charming, humorous and informative book, packed with information on Regency England. As the publisher said, this book is "for all those readers who dream about living in Regency England, The Jane Austen Handbook offers step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early nineteenth century. You'll discover:

How to Become an Accomplished Lady

How to Run a Great House

How to Indicate Interest in a Gentleman Without Seeming Forward

How to Throw a Dinner Party

How to Choose and Buy Clothing
Full of practical directions for navigating the travails of Regency life, this charming illustrated book also serves as a companion for present-day readers, explaining the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living."

You'll also learn just how rich Darcy really was and how much he would be worth today. I thought Sullivan explained entail better than anything else I have ever read about the subject. I feel like I finally understand entail and the hows and whys of its use.
All of the little day to day things that made up the life of the landed gentry during Austen's life time are covered. The writing is light and easy, less scholarly and more fun but just as informative and accurate as a more scholarly book.
I loved the tongue-in-cheek references to the novels that are found throughout the book. I found this approach humorous and enjoyable and almost felt like I was sharing an inside joke between myself, Margaret Sullivan and Jane Austen. For example, when writing about child rearing, Sullivan wrote that "if all else fails, liberal slices of cake solve many child-rearing problems." Could she be referring to Mrs. Musgroves approach to her grandsons that is found in Persuasion? This is just one example of such humorous little tidbits found throughout the book.
The illustrations by Kathryn Rathke make the book even more delightful and the wonderful appendices complete the book. There you find a short bio of Jane Austen, a glossary of Regency terms, synopses of each novel, a listing of film adaptations, a bibliography and a list of web site and discussion groups.
I checked this wonderful book out from the library but will be adding it to my Jane Austen book collection soon.

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