The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books. Claire Tomalin's biography of Jane Austen was published in 1997 and, although it contained little new research, sold xxxxxxx. Paula Byrne - an internationally renowned Jane Austen scholar and a best-selling biographer - has uncovered a very different Jane Austen to the Jane of popular imagination. This Jane, revealed in the first biography written for a general readership but based on the most up-to-date scholarship - is a woman deeply immersed in the culture around her, but also far ahead of her time in her independence and tough-mindedness. Throughout, this book gives the sense of Austen as an astute commentator on human nature in general and her own age in particular, and above all as a writer of independence and ambition. Each chapter is focussed on a key moment in Austen's life: eg. when her handicapped brother is removed from the family, when her exotic cousin Eliza arrives in the family circle, when her aunt was arrested for shoplifting, her time alone in London. The book also gives detailed attention to the novels themselves. After this book, no longer can Austen be viewed as someone who did not engage with the great political events of her time. How many lovers of her work are aware that the Prince Regent kept a debauched household down the road from her village, that she was related by marriage to other major literary figures of the time such as the libertine Gothic novelist William Beckford and her favourite poet George Crabbe. The book will also identify her long lost seaside love as well as argue that her assumed 'genteel' sense of humour could also be savage, highly subversive irony.
From the reviews of Perdita: 'A fine biographer has conjured up a dazzling personality and brought her, laughing, back to life.' Sunday Times 'Imagine Nicole Kidman, Monica Lewinsky, Susan Sontag and Madonna all rolled into one, then ask yourself, how is it that we've never heard of her? Utterly absorbing.' Vogue From Mad World reviews: 'Vibrant, absorbing, stranger than fiction.' Sunday Times 'The author's deliciously rich research details the pampered life of the aristocracy before the Second World War, reflected in 'raspberry crepe de chine shirts', jazz, cocktails and easy promiscuity, all worked seamlessly into a non-fiction narrative that feels like a novel.' Juliet Nicolson 'Byrne has written a marvellous book, warm, witty and enormously readable.' Daily Telegraph
Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead. Her first book, Jane Austen and the Theatre, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, Perdita, was a Richard and Judy book-club pick and a best-seller. Her third, Mad World:Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead is 'the fascinating story of a great house and a great family.' It was published to rave reviews in 2009 and was another best-seller. She is married to Jonathan Bate and lives in Oxford.