Desert Isle Keeper
Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen
Note: this is a re-release of a book that was originally published in 1972.
Only a Novel is the general gold standard for Jane Austen biographies. Written in a smooth, witty tone that’s easy to sink into, the book explores Austen’s life from pre-conception (her mother wore a daring red cloak to her wedding) to death (at the end she describes herself as a “really genteel, portable sort of an invalid”.). In between there are glittering parties, conversations with other famous authors, a flight from marriage, and a sisterly bond that couldn’t be broken.
But Hodge isn’t comfortable to just stay on the surface of Austen’s life. Instead, she dives into the author’s work, analyzing her books and the reasons why they may have been written. Dipping into the mild rivalry between Austen and the Bronte sisters, Hodge has some gossipy fun wondering if certain books are ‘answer’ tomes to one another; what did they influence, and how much? Who was the real Emma? The true Elizabeth Bennett or Elinor Dashwood? In diving into Austen’s journals and notational copies of her books, she reveals a fully rounded figure, emerging from the shadow of crinoline and tea parties for ever more.
We get to see Austen’s relatives and friends and potential boyfriends through the witty, playful fire that the author herself lit them up with. Hodge never fails to give us the self-deprecatory, laughing Austen, and she also show us her more serious side – it dives deeply into her technique in a way that fascinates.
The mix of seriousness and gossip fits Austen’s milieu perfectly, in such a way that causes perfect harmony. Only a Novel is likely to be the only Austen biography you will ever want, or ever need.
Buy it at: Amazon
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