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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: 'Jane Austen: A Life Revealed'

By Catherine Reef
YA biography
June 2011
Clarion Books
ISBN: 978-0547370217

Young adult readers can be especially passionate about their favorites, as has been seen when Harry Potter and Twilight took off in popularity. Transferring that loyalty to other books that are at least a bit similar has not always been successful, although the vampire subgenre remains healthy for both YA and adult paranormal romance genres. Those who hope interest in a great romance could lead to young readers discovering Jane Austen don't often meet with success. In addition to the language barrier, there are the slower plots and, let's face it, no broken headboards.

But fans of the film "Becoming Jane" can learn more about Austen's life, family, society and times, through Catherine Reef's biography. Reef, who has written about Whitman, Freud, Steinbeck and Hemingway, weaves together information about Jane, her family, and society and its expectations. She sticks to the facts with little speculation to let the reader draw her own conclusions about the lot of unmarried women in a cultural period that had strict rules for people based on their class, gender and marital status. The information is written mostly in chronological order, although the various information dumps about the world at large are at times inserted when readers might rather know what's going on in Austen's life.

Reef also writes about each Austen novel, relating with the easy command that comes with deep knowledge the plots of each and how Austen grew as a writer from book to book. The only drawback is that some readers will not be drawn to the novels themselves because they already know what happens. This will not bother readers who enjoy the journey of the story itself.

That quibble aside, Reef's biography is an admirably written biography of one of the world's great authors.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission


  1. Reef's YA biography of Hemingway was very well done, too. I'll keep an eye out for this one... hope my library orders a copy.

  2. After completing inventory in the biography section yesterday, I'm more than glad to see new works about these people who should still be known.