The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things (Hardcover)

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In The Real Jane Austen, acclaimed literary biographer Paula Byrne provides the most intimate and revealing portrait yet of a beloved but complex novelist.

Just as letters and tokens in Jane Austen’s novels often signal key turning points in the narrative, Byrne explores the small things – a scrap of paper, a gold chain, an ivory miniature – that held significance in Austen’s personal and creative life.

Byrne transports us to different worlds, from the East Indies to revolutionary Paris, and to different events, from a high society scandal to a case of petty shoplifting. In this ground-breaking biography,  Austen is set on a wider stage than ever before, revealing a well-traveled and politically aware writer – important aspects of her artistic development that have long been overlooked.

The Real Jane Austen is a fresh, compelling, and surprising biography of the author of some of our most enduring classic books – from Pride and Prejudice to Sense and Sensibility, Emma to Persuasion – and a vivid evocation of the world that shaped her.

Praise For…


“[Byrne] breathes yet more life into Austen and her works by considering the objects that populated her days…. [The] thematic approach offers a revealing picture of Austen and a lively social history….paints a fresh and vivid picture of an inimitable woman.”

“Byrne’s aim is to show how these objects, many of them reproduced in her book in lush color plates, reveal a much more cosmopolitan awareness of the world than is commonly credited to Austen.”

“A vivacious portrait…Byrne’s Austen emerges as a worldly woman, profoundly enmeshed in a wider world than she’s often acknowledged to occupy. This is an Austen with a sense for the political as well as for the finer points of sensibility.”

“An excellent new biography…well-researched and entertaining…Byrne gives us a Jane Austen many readers may not recognize: a woman who enjoyed black humor and was well aware of the political scene of her time.”

“Vividly persuasive…. The Real Jane Austen is excellent… particularly on the dissonant topics of theater and slavery….Byrnes section on slavery is better still, establishing links between Austen’s protagonists and contemporary figures, her pointed references and contemporary events, which highlight her supposedly oblivious fiction’s sharp views on the slave trade.”

“In THE REAL JANE AUSTEN, Bryne’s engaging prose and thoughtful, determined analysis of tangible objects from her life give us a picture of Austen as a vivid, vital woman committed to her career as a novelist, clear-eyed and part of the wider world. Well worth a read.”

“Biographer Paula Byrne has taken objects from Jane Austen’s real life and times and used them as if we were dropping in on Austen on any given day...a dynamic new biography in which Austen lives and breathes.”

“Byrne takes Austen seriously as a writer...[she] brings to life a woman of “wonderful exuberance and self-confidence,” of “firm opinions and strong passions.” Little wonder that every other man she meets seems to fall in love with her.”

“A fresh behind-the-scenes look at an author who, for many, stands behind only Shakespeare as the greatest English writer.”

“Brilliantly illuminating…riveting…Again and again…Byrne opens out Austen’s story with a novelist’s persistent probing of the evidence.”

“Magnificent…explodes the old view of Jane Austen. Byrne’s research is wide, deep and meticulous…a more vivid and memorable Jane Austen emerges than a relentlessly ‘straight’ old-fashioned narrative could deliver.”
Product Details
ISBN: 9780061999093
ISBN-10: 0061999091
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: January 29th, 2013
Pages: 400
Language: English