The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things Audiobook by Paula Byrne, Narrated by Kate Reading
Back in 2013 I was adding different books to my endless to-read list on Goodreads.
When I saw this book and added it to my list and then forgot all about it.
Fast forward to 2023 and I was scrolling the audiobooks on the Libby app looking for something new to listen to when I spotted this book, The Real Jane Austen, and decided to give it a listen.
I really enjoyed this book a lot, my only regret is that I didn’t have the print version which would have been easier for me to take notes; as I really, really loved this biography. It was so good!
However, the audiobook was still extremely enjoyable and I strongly recommend this to any Jane Austen fan.
The Real Jane Austen is a biography in a completely different format. Most biographies start with Jane Austen’s life and follow a timeline from birth to death. In The Real Jane Austen each chapter starts with an object in Jane Austen’s world-vellum notebook, a barouche, a simple gold chain, a bathing machine, etc.; and discusses it significance to her and it’s role in her novels.
One of my favorite chapters was the one on The Barouhe. I always knew transportation was important, but I never really thought about how important it was, and how not having your own carriages, barouches, or other modes of transportation left you at the mercy of others schedules and plans. Bryne talks about how without your own vehicle, especially as a woman, one would have to wait for elder brothers to come and get them; sometimes having to leave earlier then they wished or stay much longer than they liked.
Also having your own barouche or other vehicle meant you “arrived in society”; and if you drove your own vehicle you were both glamorous and dangerous.
It also gave new meaning to me about John Thorpe’s bragging about his vehicle.
He’s really trying to impress Catherine. I mean he is really trying to show her how glamorous, dangerous, and flourishing he is.
Another part I really enjoyed was hearing about how Jane Austen used to write on the back of the novels she owned (by other authors) what she thought happened to the characters. That made me think she would be happy to hear that her readers do the same with her characters.
Or at least most of them. 😆
Another point I found very interesting was how Bryne points out that Jane Austen heroines are never described really as attractive physically, typically being average, and it’s their internal qualities and intelligence that are more beautiful and draw people to them. Catherine is not a great beauty, Emma is handsome not beautiful, Elizabeth has fine eyes but the rest of her features are average, etc. I like that their brain, intelligence, and personality is what first strikes people’s attention; their beauty growing the more they spend time together.
These are just a few of the thoughts I had after reading this biography, I do have a few more percolating into becoming the possibility of a full blown post.
Again, I recommend this book to any Jane Austen fan. It was extremely interesting, and I really enjoyed every part. I do think that it would be best to read a traditional biography first to have a sense of Jane Austen’s life; but if you already have read one, or several, then definitely check this book out.
For more Jane Austen biographies, go to Jane Austen (Little People, BIG DREAMS)
For more Jane Austen nonfiction, go to The Making of Pride and Prejudice (1995)
For more audiobook reviews, go to Recipe for Persuasion Audiobook Narrated by Soneela Nankani