Informative, Engaging, and Delectable
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
(Note: This review is of the 2011 edition published by Frances Lincoln Limited, which includes forty color and forty-five black and white illustrations.)
Tea is not just a soothing, aromatic beverage – in Jane Austen’s time it was a daily ritual, a social activity, an indication of status, and a literary device. Throughout Jane Austen’s novels and the novels of her contemporaries there is great significance placed on the purchasing, serving, and drinking of tea – some of which might be missed by modern readers. In her charming and elegant book, Tea with Jane Austen, Kim Wilson meticulously examines the inclusion and influence of tea in Jane Austen’s novels.
Tea with Jane Austen is divided into five chapters that discuss the different times, occasions, and locations to drink tea. For those of us who are not from England or are not very familiar with the customs of drinking tea there are many interesting bits of history and traditions to learn. I was amazed to learn that before tea was introduced to England, people drank ale with their breakfast. In addition, I found the practice of smuggling or selling used tea leaves to be both fascinating and disgusting. There are many other intriguing and amusing facts and opinions to be discovered in the quotes, passages, and letters cited in this book.
Besides being an edifying and elegant work of nonfiction, Tea with Jane Austen includes several bonus attractions. One being the variety of illustrations which include: pictures from Jane Austen’s House Museum, black and white sketches, caricatures, Regency prints, and of course, images of various teacups and teapots. The other being recipes! I greatly admire and appreciate how Ms. Wilson presented the recipes both in its original wording from two hundred year old sources and in a detailed format that includes modern appliances and measurements. No need to beat your batter for an hour, go ahead and get out your electric mixer! Furthermore, I’m glad that Ms. Wilson included both metric and American systems of measurement, making these recipes accessible to readers on both sides of the pond. I can’t wait to test out the recipes for Pound Cake, Hot Bath Cakes, and Lemon Cheesecakes! However, I don’t think I’ll try to make my own Water-Gruel or Homemade Catchup that can keep for “twenty years” any time soon!
To put it simply, I loved everything about Tea with Jane Austen. I loved learning about English traditions, social customs and how Jane Austen used tea as a literary device in her novels. Moreover, I took great pleasure in the engaging commentary, detailed illustrations and appetizing recipes! This book is a MUST have if you are at all inclined to learn more about tea during the time of Jane Austen! I highly recommend!
– Review of In the Garden with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson