An Insightful Biography on Jane Austen’s Popularity and Phenomena
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Those who know a little about Jane Austen’s life, know that she didn’t always enjoy the vast readership and iconic status that she does today. Throughout her lifetime, when her newly published novels were fashionable and her identity a curious mystery, Jane Austen only received some mild popularity and acclaim. And when she died and her identity was revealed, the reading world did not immediately embrace our beloved author, and her fame dwindled. We all know that since then, Jane Austen’s fame and fandom has become illimitable. Today, Jane Austen is renowned, revered, celebrated, reinterpreted, and ardently admired and loved.
How did this happen? Who or what are the causes for Jane Austen’s global, fervent, and rampant popularity two hundred years later?
I took great pleasure in discovering the history of Jane Austen’s rise in notoriety in this well-researched and thorough biography. I found the first couple of chapters, where Ms. Harman challenged several myths about Jane Austen’s life fascinating. I whole-heartedly agree with her claim that Jane Austen most likely did not stop writing in between the years 1803-1809, despite the lack of anything being saved or documented from that time. In addition, Ms. Harman made many other valid arguments about Jane Austen’s desire for praise, her image, and her letters, and I found them all to be insightful and perceptive speculations.
The other half of the book focused on the years after Jane Austen’s life. It was incredibly interesting to learn who read Jane Austen, who loved her, and what many great people thought of her. I especially enjoyed reading Sir Walter Scott’s, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s, and Winston Churchill’s comments and opinions of her. In addition, there were several compelling stories about how Jane Austen helped soldiers during the Great War, inspired a Frenchman during his incarceration, and how Chawton Cottage became a national memorial in her honor.
Reading the last chapter of the book, “Jane Austen™,” was enormous fun because it focused on Jane Austen’s current success. It was great entertainment for this present-day Janeite to see Ms. Harman comment on nearly every Jane Austen movie adaption, mention the fabulous Period Drama Montage “It’s Raining Men” video on YouTube, and reference everyones’ favorite blogs: Austenprose and Austeblog! My only complaint is that Ms. Harman really didn’t do justice to the vast quantity of Jane Austen fan-fiction and para-literature existing today. She does make mention of several books and authors, yet states that the novels by Emma Tennant are the “most intelligent and successful!” On this, I cannot agree with you, Ms. Harman!
Overall, Jane’s Fame is a remarkably clear, detailed, and erudite examination of Jane Austen’s popularity and phenomena. Ms. Harman’s meticulous research, accessible tone, and bevy of citations make this a magnificent and highly recommended biography for any Jane Austen admirer!
Thanks to the wonderful people at Picador I have one BRAND NEW COPY of JANE’s FAME to give away! (Apologies to my international friends, this giveaway is available to US residents only).
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