The Jane Austen Handbook
Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk Books, 2011
When I was asked if I'd like to review this, I jumped at the chance! Not only am I a Janeite in general, but I thought it'd come in rather handy as I participate in the Jane Austen Twitter Project. (Because how can you write a convincing Austen-spinoff if you don't fully understand Regency behaviour? You can't. Thus: Time to be educated!).
As soon as it arrived, I started flipping through and reading pages at random, loving the wealth of knowledge right there at my fingertips. Then I settled down to actually read it straight through. The information is broken up into manageable nuggets and filed under 4 categories: Jane Austen's World; Everyday Activities; Making Love; and Social Gatherings (full 'titles' shortened). These delightfully informative (not to mention entertaining) chapters are interspersed with Austen references, and stand-alone pages of more detailed particulars (like 'entailment' and 'professions'). While the Handbook is primarily oriented towards Regency manners and living, there is a wonderful amount of insight that could (should?) be applied to our own day and age - what if we all were a little more conscious of our decisions? If we made words and experiences count more because they meant more? Something to think about for another post ...
In short, if you adore Jane Austen's world and characters, and would much rather be touring the Lake District or having balls, but aren't quite sure how to fit into that world without appearing painfully out of place? You should give the Jane Austen Handbook a read - it will clear things up considerably! (Including that delightful little tidbit of Mr. Darcy's 10,000 a year - what is he worth in current American money? Oh, just wait and see!) There's also a brief biography of Jane, synopsis of her novels and characters, a glossary (for those tricky words) and additional resources. A Janeite's reference-dream in one fun little package!
Book provided by publisher for review.