Jane Austen: A Life

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Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997 - Novelists, English - 578 pages
8 Reviews
In his compelling new biography, David Nokes has reexamined Austen's life and presents a picture of her which is less perfect but more full of dangerous excitement. A devoted aunt with several suitors of her own, Jane Austen nevertheless remained a "maiden", and gave up hope of ever happily marrying. She devoted her efforts to Cassandra and to her writing. Her first full-length novel, originally entitled First Impressions, was both a family favorite and the favorite of critics. Yet it languished in the offices of the London publisher Thomas Cadell, who had "little enthusiasm for a slight, ironic tale with such an unassuming title as First Impressions from a clergyman's daughter in Hampshire. Across the top of Mr. Austen's letter - he had submitted the book on Jane's behalf - was scrawled a note: 'Declined by return of post.'" The book was none other than Pride and Prejudice. Written with the grace and fluidity of one of Austen's own novels, Nokes's Jane Austen: A Life plumbs the extraordinarily close relationship between Jane and Cassandra; lifts the haze from the conflicting accounts of Jane's one great love affair, in the summer of 1801, with a clergyman whose early death bore an uncanny resemblance to the end of one of Cassandra's own affairs; speculates that Jane's father, Oxford-educated Reverend George Austen, in all likelihood profited from opium smuggling, which enabled the country vicar to keep eight children in relative comfort; reveals that one of the houses in which the Austens lived was haunted by murder, and, finally, that Jane herself helped to conceal the best kept - and darkest - of family secrets. As she once wrote in a letter, "If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my own fault".

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Review: Jane Austen: A Life

User Review  - Paul Baker - Goodreads

An excellent biography of Jane Austen, taken mostly from letters to and by her family and friends, especially her sister, Cassandra. Although there aren't any great insights into Ms. Austen's novels ... Read full review

Review: Jane Austen: A Life

User Review  - Betsy - Goodreads

Brilliant interpretation, beautifully rendered. Read full review

About the author (1997)

David Nokes is a Reader in English Literature at King's CollDavid Nokes is a Reader in English Literature at King's College, London. He is the author of "John Gay: A Profession of ege, London. He is the author of "John Gay: A Profession of Friendship" (1995), and "Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite ReverseFriendship" (1995), and "Jonathan Swift: A Hypocrite Reversed" (1985). d" (1985).

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