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Jane Austen: A Life Revealed por Catherine…
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Jane Austen: A Life Revealed (original 2011; edição 2011)

por Catherine Reef

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9817216,084 (3.4)4
A biography of Jane Austen for students that provides an overview of her personal life, writings, and influence on world literature.
Título:Jane Austen: A Life Revealed
Autores:Catherine Reef
Informação:Clarion Books (2011), Hardcover, 208 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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Jane Austen: A Life Revealed por Catherine Reef (2011)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 17 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
I just re-read this review and I think it is pretty obvious that I have no idea how I feel about this book. I am all over the place. I both liked this book and felt like it didn’t do what it was supposed to do, tell me more about Jane Austen.

Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is a short, fast, easy to read biography for young adults. It is packed full of information about Janes’ family and her novels. However I feel like I still don’t know much about Jane. This book is well researched and well written, although a bit slow at some parts and once in awhile it reminded me a little of something a teen would write for school.

I still can’t believe how much I learned about her family in such a short time. I just wish I learned more about Jane. That is why I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. It was good and I did enjoy it, I just don’t feel like it tells you much about Jane herself. You learn about her family, friends and novels, but not Jane.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to people who haven’t read all of Jane Austens’ novels due to spoilers, I do think everyone who has read them all should pick this up. It is a must read for all Austen lovers. Even if it leaves you with more questions than answers. ( )
  TheTreeReader | Dec 7, 2017 |
Great introduction for teens to Austen's life, body of work, and the times in which she lived. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
ARC received as e-book via NetGalley.com

The book: I enjoyed Reef's writing. She made it a little more conversational then simply writing known facts about Austen. I also appreciated her discussion of the times of Jane Austen. However, when Austen's books are discussed, Reef ruined the books. I understand the audience for this work is younger readers, but by giving it all away she makes reading the books unnecessary. And if a reader is already an Austen fan then those many paragraphs are wasted. I would have liked more discussion of the time period than the lengthy book synopsis.

Advanced Copies via eReader: Very annoying. Because of the inclusion of photos, I would have to page forward several times before I got to the next page of text. My next eReader experience will have to be with a final copy. Hopefully, those are things fixed before the final copy. ( )
  melissarochelle | Apr 3, 2013 |
Seriously, this read like someone's thesis.
There was some fun facts in there but a lot of the book was telling ABOUT Austen's books which if you had picked up this book to begin with, I would assume you know most of them and didn't need quite so much detail. ( )
  carolvanbrocklin | Mar 3, 2013 |
The nonfiction book entitled Jane Austen – A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef was a great read if you’re a fan of the famous novelist that this book so specifically and eloquently describes. Jane Austen was not extremely popular at the time when she wrote her novels approximately two hundred years ago. After her death, however, and the publication of a memoir written by her nephew in the mid-1800’s, Ms. Austen’s work has become so popular, that it would probably not be presumptuous to assume that even she would be overwhelmed with shock and flattery at the attention and admiration her books have received. I chose to read this particular biography for a few reasons: my professor suggested it, the author Catherine Reef has written other notable biographies on Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings, as well as many award-winning nonfiction books, and I’m writing my own biographical sketch on Jane Austen because I am one of her many fans. This book is geared toward anyone who loves Jane Austen’s work and style of writing and would like to know more about her as a person who lived in the Victorian era of the late 1700’s to early 1800’s in which the plots within her books take place. More specifically, in my opinion, the target audience is one that is on a more advanced reading level in which case avid readers from young adolescents to the ‘young at heart’ would enjoy this book. The biography is 155 pages and is filled with information on the events of the relatively short life of this talented writer who is considered by many within the world of literature to be one of the greatest writers of all time.

In summary, Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Stevenson, England; one of seven children born into a nice family, but not one considered high on the economic hierarchy within the “class” system of British society. Her father was a teacher, parson, and operator of a cheese farm which was the staple of the family’s income. Although Jane’s father was not of aristocracy, he was well-read and encouraged his children to become devoted readers. At the time, women had few choices and were strongly encouraged to marry for financial security because the eldest son or closest nephew usually inherited the family assets. With so many mouths to feed within the Austen family, Jane’s older brother Edward was adopted by a wealthy couple who could not have children of their own. Another brother, George was considered disabled and lived with yet another family who took care of his special needs. Later in life, Edward would end up helping his mother and sisters (Jane and Cassandra) by providing them with a house in which to live after their father died.

Jane grew up during what many referred to as the Georgian period in which men were considered worthy of being educated in math and science and were encouraged to go to universities; whereas women were educated in grammar, art, and music and were usually sent to schools specifically for girls whose staff was supposed to teach them these skills. Unfortunately, many of these schools did not provide a quality education for their female students. Jane and her sister Cassandra were shipped off to one of these schools and received only an adequate education. It was when both of them became sick and Jane almost died, that their parents pulled them out of the girls’ school and had them finish their education at home. Jane resumed her love of reading and learned to play the piano. By being at home, her wealthier cousin Eliza often came to visit and exposed Jane to the more cosmopolitan events within the British social circles and knowledge of everything French.

Jane was considered by many to be tall, slender, and attractive; although no true pictures reveal her likeness. Her sister Cassandra painted the only authenticated portrait of Jane, but most said it had little resemblance to the writer. Her religious and political beliefs were also unknown because no diaries were found and many of the letters she wrote to family and friends were not preserved. What is known about her personally, however, is that she was a great dancer according to her brother Henry and that she continued her love of reading, with her favorite books being Sir Charles Grandison and Cecilia which led to her idea for Pride and Prejudice. She also liked to put on plays, as well as attended the theater as a youth and soon began writing short stories and novels which have been incorporated into what is called The Juvenilia. One of her more humorous short stories that poke jabs at the British aristocracy is “Love and Friendship” which she dedicated to her cousin Eliza, and her first novel entitled Jack and Alice was dedicated to her brother James. Her wit and sometimes cutting remarks in these and other future works lead the reader to believe that Jane Austen was also not the syrupy sweet individual her family made her out to be, but was rather sharp and a bit intolerable at times when describing her observations of the people and situations around her.

Jane did fall in love once, to a man named Tom Lefroy, but his family quickly put an end to the romance because they wanted their son to marry a woman of wealth and position. Jane never wrote about how the break up made her feel. Tom went on to the university and was later asked about his love for Jane Austen and he admitted to it, but that it was “a boyish love”. Jane was later introduced to a man named Reverend Samuel Blackall, but she did not like him, stating that she thought he was extremely outspoken and that he mistakenly considered himself to be perfect. With permanent romance not looking like it was going to be in her future, Jane Austen continued to write with her father and brothers trying to get her works published. Suddenly, her father announced out-of-the-blue that he, Mrs. Austen, Jane, and Cassandra, who lost her fiancé’ to yellow fever, were moving to Bath. Jane was devastated to leave the home she had known all of her life. She fainted in response to her father’s announcement and never liked the town of Bath even though it had hot springs that supposedly healed the sick and offered many entertaining activities. She was almost sick over the fact that her parents had to sell most of the family’s belongings in order to move; including her beloved piano. She said that Bath was, “vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion”. In her grievance while living in Bath, she wrote the novel Susan whose main character is girl who has an active imagination and likes to read gothic novels.

Jane did enjoy traveling to the seaside with her parents and visiting relatives with her sister Cassandra. It was known that she always carried her manuscripts where ever she went because they were her most valuable possessions. The biography also revealed that she even had a lover in Devonshire who later died, once again leaving Jane to think that she would never marry. This juicy morsel of information also leads the reader to believe that Ms. Austen was not necessarily the helpless virgin that so many assumed was her persona. While on one of her long travels, however, a wealthy younger man named Harris Bigg-Wither asked Jane to marry him and thinking that she wasn’t getting any younger and no other prospects were on the horizon, she accepted. Coming to the realization that it would only be a marriage of convenience and not love, Jane called off the engagement the next morning. Now Jane wanted to leave Bath for good, not only because of bad memories, but mainly because her writing was suffering. She wrote very little while living there.

Jane’s father was not having much luck with getting her novels published either, so her brother Henry made a go of it. He managed to sell the publishing rights of Susan for 10 pounds to a publisher named Richard Crosby. Hopeful, Jane started writing a new piece called The Watsons, but abandoned the work for unknown reasons. Could it have been the death of her father which was upsetting enough, but also meant financial ruin for her, her mother, and sister? Jane turned to her brothers, Edward, James, Henry, and Frank for support. Finally, Frank invited his mother and sisters to come and live with him and his new bride who was expecting their first child because he would often be away at sea in the navy. They moved to Castle Square in South Hampton and lived in an old house on its grounds. Although Jane was appreciative, she felt very frustrated by not having her own money and instead having to depend on others. She could only travel to places if a male relative was going because she could not pay her way. She said that she hated being poor and reliant on her brothers. She was well-loved by her brothers’ children, however, and they always wanted to see their Aunt Jane because she played games with them and recited the most entertaining stories. Due to this fact, her brothers were usually willing to travel with her and make sure she was able to visit with many friends and relatives. It was her wealthy brother Edward who offered his mother and sisters to come and live on one of his estates in Chawton where Jane felt the most comfortable. She lived there for most of the remainder of her life.

Jane Austen’s writing flourished while living at Chawton. She began writing Sense and Sensibility which was sent to a new publisher because Richard Crosby had done nothing with Susan. Thomas Egerton wanted to publish Jane’s new novel, but she would have to pay for it. Henry and Eliza came to her rescue and funded the book’s publication which was well worth it because Sense and Sensibility sold out. Mr. Egerton paid Jane 140 pounds and paid her another 110 pounds to publish her next book called Pride and Prejudice which contains one of the most famous sentences ever written stating, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The biographical author, Catherine Reef spends time explaining the contents of these two books to the reader who may not be familiar with the plots. Reef goes on to explain how Austen’s favorite character was Elizabeth Bennett and offers pictures in the book that helps the reader better comprehend the times, places, and people in which Austen writes about. Pride and Prejudice was an instant success, but received criticism because people thought that Austen ended the story too abruptly. Even Mark Twain criticized her style of writing. Jane was known, however, for being her biggest critic. She pressed on and wrote Mansfield Park after her cousin Eliza died of breast cancer and in the midst of British war and politics which all affected the content of her writing. The book sold out in six months. Experiencing some success, Jane writes Emma and finds yet a new publisher. She received both praise and criticism from fellow writers, friends, and family. She liked hearing from the latter two because she wanted to know how they compared the characters, expressing who they liked best and who they wanted to get to know better. Reef reiterates that Jane Austen’s writings were about how life really was in England during the time in which she lived. She wrote about what she knew and the places and people she experienced.

In 1816, after a second edition of Mansfield Park was published by her new publisher, John Murray, Jane had the funds to repurchase the rights to Susan, but this was also when she began to feel ill. Wanting to press forward, she began work on her next novel The Elliots, but put it on the side for a while because of family financial troubles and her failing health. The author describes how Jane’s sister, Cassandra feels very concerned about Jane and brings her to a spa in Cheltenham in hopes that the waters there will cure her. Although Jane was in extreme discomfort, she finishes The Elliots, but was unsatisfied with the last two chapters and rewrote them. Jane hated being an invalid and fought hard to get better. She was determined to do what she loved - keep writing. She began her next novel called The Brothers, but was too sick to finish it. Adding insult to injury, when Jane’s wealthy uncle died and left her and her family next to nothing, the distress of continued financial hardship took a toll on Jane’s health which further declined.

While experiencing great physical suffering, Jane wrote a will, leaving everything to her sister Cassandra, with the exception of funeral expenses, 50 pounds for Henry and 50 pounds for his servant Madame Bigeon who helped take care of her cousin Eliza when she was sick and dying. In desperation, Jane’s family rushed her off to a surgeon, Dr. Lyford in Winchester to help cure her, but he was never able to save her. Jane did get better at times and then worse at others. This fluctuation in the quality of her health kept relatives coming and going in an effort to try and help. This information leads the reader to believe that Ms. Austen was well loved among her family. Reef describes Jane Austen’s last days with sensitivity and kind regard for such a great writer. She explains that Cassandra was with Jane on July 15, 1816 which was also Swithin’s Day – a day that in folklore determines how the weather will be over the next 40 days. The people of Winchester were planning races and events on this special day even though it was raining. With her last bit of strength, Jane asked Cassandra to write down a poem that she wanted to dictate to her about the holiday, and it is as follows:

These races and revels and dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand – you shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off your course, I’ll pursue with my rain. (Jane Austen – A Life Revealed, pages 136-137).

On July 18, 1816 at 4:30 AM, Jane Austen, at the age of 41, died in Cassandra’s arms. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral and all of her family attended, except James who was himself too ill. Reverend Henry Austen wrote on his sister’s gravestone “The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind.” He never mentioned her writing directly and had no idea that his humble sister would one day be considered one of the greatest writers of literature. Her writing, however, continued after she was gone. Susan was renamed Northanger Abbey and was finally published and The Elliots was published under its new title Persuasion. Both books were successful, but as was mentioned earlier in this review, it was when Jane’s nephew, James Edward Austen wrote A Memoir of Jane Austen in the 1860’s, that many people became again entranced and fell in love with Jane Austen’s works. The author, Reef explains that James was able to write this memoir from his own experiences with his aunt, from information the family told him about her, and from the remaining letters that survived over the course of time.

Catherine Reef continues to pay homage to Austen by discussing in her book how the fan club called the “Janites” began during World War I; how Chawton Cottage where Jane lived is now a museum; and how this now famous writer’s novels have inspired plays, radio dramatizations, films, and other productions. Reef ends her biography about Jane Austen by reiterating that she wrote about ordinary people whose lives had unique dramas of their own worth telling. She goes on to state that there are no dark, mysterious, scary castles to explore, but instead Austen’s writing was an exploration of human nature with its development and complications which entertains us even today. People and their situations don’t change too much over the centuries; therefore, readers can continue to relate to what Jane’s characters experience.

In terms of accuracy, the author, Catherine Reef’s information about Jane Austen lines up well with other information available for research. She uses preserved letters that the famous writer wrote herself to friends and family to also support the details of Austen’s life. Reef is the author of forty other nonfiction books that required thorough research and many of these books are award winners. She has also written other biographies about famous writers, such as Ernest Hemingway and E.E. Cummings.

The content of Jane Austen – A life Revealed involves a concentration on the famous author’s life and novels that she wrote. Reef goes into quite a bit of depth to reveal Austen’s personality, family life, writing career, and last days on Earth. Reef remains focused on Jane’s personal life and only diverges in order to discuss the details of the plots within her literary works.

Reef’s style of writing is one that uses clear language that is spot on with the reading level of readers who appreciate Jane Austen’s work. Her ideas are, for the most part, logically ordered, except in the beginning of the book when it opens with Reef pulling and excerpt from Austen’s last novel Sanditon that she was unable to finish due to her illness. Reef also uses a tone that is conversational with the reader. Sometimes, however, it feels as though she has a bit of a partisan tone too because of the sentimental touches she reveals at the end of the book when Jane dies. I get the distinct impression that Reef was also a fan of Austen’s work even though she stays rather objective in presenting the facts.

The organization is somewhat of a story narrative as Reef tells the reader about Austen’s life and the classic literature she produced, but is also written in a type of chronological order as events take place in Jane Austen’s life. The only exception is in the beginning as was previously mentioned.

Numerous reference aids add to the validity of this nonfiction biography. They are as follows: the author provides the reader with insights into what kind of information was gathered for the book in order for it be to written; a Table of Contents is provided with intriguing chapter titles; a lengthy Family Tree of both the Austen and Leigh families is provided to show the lineage of Jane Austen and where she falls within the line; an extensive Notes section offers readers information on where Catherine Reef got other research for the biography; a thorough Selected Bibliography section citing where more information was gathered, allows readers the opportunity to conduct their own research on Jane Austen; a list of Jane Austen’s Works (completed novels, unfinished novels, Juvenilia, poetry, and letters) is available; Picture Credits for all of the visual material used in the biography is included; and finally an Index section that allows the reader to quickly find any topic within the book is also presented .

The format of the biography uses many illustrations in the form of photographs from films, periodic drawings of life during the Georgian/Victorian age, and photocopies of actual letters or pieces of manuscripts, all help the reader to relate better to Jane Austen’s life and writings. The cover of the book also rouses the interest of the potential reader because it shows a black cut-out of Jane Austen’s possible profile, prompting the reader to want to know more about this once fairly unknown woman who became one of the most famous writers of all time. A blue ribbon also runs over the front cover which was a form of fashion worn by women of Austen’s time who wanted to look nice, but were too poor to buy real jewelry. The flower may represent that Jane Austen was considered, at least by her family, to be delicate in personality and disposition, but this may have been a façade to others who actually knew her. The back cover offers commentary from other famous writers who appreciated Austen’s work.

As a future middle school English teacher, and even though I am a great fan of Jane Austen’s work, I would offer this book only as a choice to my students since I am also a believer in students reading what interests them. As a follower of constructivism and Louis Rosenblatt’s Transactional Theory, I want my students to pull from their personal experiences and have a choice in what they want to read and write. Although Jane Austen’s work is timeless and precious, in my opinion, a seventh grade young adolescent male may think otherwise. If I had three or more students chose the Jane Austen book that I would recommend, I would then put them in a small group to work together on writing a review of the book and using examples from the text to support why they liked and/or disliked it. I would also like for them to draw a picture of what they believe Jane Austen looked like and perhaps act out their favorite scene from the book for the rest of the class. ( )
  cdaugher | Feb 19, 2013 |
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