Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Diehard Janeites don’t need to be told that there is a dearth of biographical information available about Jane Austen’s life. We know that Cassandra Austen burned most of Jane Austen’s correspondence, we know that there is a long period of silence where precious little is recorded or written by her, and we know that her childhood home, her beloved Steventon Rectory, stands no more. These are truths we must acknowledge, but oftentimes find very hard to accept! Over the years many authors and scholars have taken pen to paper to research the history, suppose the truth, and uncover what it is not known about Jane Austen. While many focus on Jane Austen’s romantic life, publishing career, and adult years, author Lisa Pliscou opts to shine her light on the most shadowy part of Jane Austen’s history – her childhood.
In this exquisitely elegant and compact tome Lisa Pliscou blends fact and supposition to present a speculative account of Jane Austen’s childhood. Beginning with Jane Austen’s birth in 1775, Ms. Pliscou illustrates both the day-to-day home life and the momentous events that shaped Jane Austen’s childhood experiences. The information is presented in 1-2 page chapters that are each accompanied by a full-page illustration by Massimo Mongiardo. There are two versions of the information presented in this volume. The first version of this biography (with illustrations) is 79 pages long and is voiced as a young child narrating their life. The second version of this biography (without illustrations) presents the same chapters and information but this time includes annotated notes after each chapter going into further detail about what is recorded and known about this time in Jane Austen’s life, drawing facts from biographies, histories, and psychological studies.
This has to be one of the most attractive and enchanting biographies I ever read about Jane Austen! I loved the beautiful designs on each page, the backgrounds, the look of old manuscript paper, and the charming illustrations! This volume truly is appealing and handsome!
While I do feel I was already familiar with most of the information presented in this work, there were two truths about Jane Austen’s life that crystalized clearly for me as I read this biography. One truth I realized was that for a girl growing up in this time period and society, Jane Austen’s life and experiences were quite singular. To grow up in a family where all children survived birth and infancy, to live in a home where her father’s library was vastly more extensive than average (and to be given free reign of such a library), to have the freedom (even though she is just a female) to pursue her own interests and occupations – are all quite atypical for this time period.
The other realization I made was how important it was for Jane Austen to be “at home.” With being “farmed out” to a nanny in the village as an infant and being sent to a girls school twice (one being a spectacularly negative experience), I can easily understand how being away for home made Jane Austen feel unhappy, unsettled, and insecure. Jane Austen’s silence during her years in Bath and Southhampton make a great deal of sense when you look at it through this lens.
Young Jane Austen is a thoroughly-researched and credible representation of Jane Austen’s life from infancy through age twelve. This lovely and delightful biography is a wonderful choice for all Janeites wanting to learn more about Jane Austen’s childhood!