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Jane Austen: A Life Revealed Hardcover – June 6, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jane Austen’s popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen. 

Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen’s life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen’s published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane’s own work—and truly a life revealed. Includes bibliography and index.


A Note from the Author

Dear Amazon Readers:

Discovering Jane Austen is like making a friend for life. Or many friends. When we open Pride and Prejudice, or Emma, or one of Austen’s other great novels, we come face-to-face with her memorable characters. We meet sparkling Elizabeth Bennet, proud Fitzwilliam Darcy, capable Anne Elliot, reckless Mr. Willoughby, and sensitive Marianne Dashwood. We laugh, cry, or even cringe as they make mistakes and learn tough lessons. We rejoice when they find happiness at last. They were created long ago, but they are like people in every age.

It is a joy to return to Austen’s novels throughout our lives, because like all great books, they continue to surprise and delight. But what about the woman behind the words? Our view of Jane Austen relies on a single watercolor portrait, a handful of letters, her family’s written accounts, and, of course, her six published novels. Yet from these sources a portrait emerges of a brilliant woman with a deep understanding of human nature. She loved a good laugh--often at others’ expense--and she was devoted to her large and active family.

Two centuries separate us from Jane Austen. Her world was far different from our own. It was a world where money and social class governed who might marry, and when. It was a place where women lived restricted lives, hemmed in by society’s rules. Laws that favored men forced women to be dependent on their husbands, fathers, and brothers. I evoke this world in Jane Austen: A Life Revealed, because understanding it is key to appreciating Austen and her books.

Jane Austen’s story is bound up with the creation of her novels. They reflect their author and her worldview. But they are also timeless tales of love and family life and coming of age. Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is both a biography and an introduction to Austen’s work. I hope it will give you the foundation you need to savor these classic novels.

Just as important, Jane Austen: A Life Revealed is meant to be enjoyed. After all, I wrote it for you.


Catherine Reef


a JLG selection

"Along with extensive details of Austen’s family. . .Reef deftly sets the biographical facts onto a larger cultural and historical canvas that will give readers a much deeper understanding of Austen’s novels, and well-chosen images, from period paintings and photos to contemporary film stills, add even more context."—Booklist, starred review

"Perhaps this work will lead readers to Jane Austen and imaginatively apply the facts of the author's life to the novels—or vice-versa."—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1090L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (June 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547370210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547370217
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,046,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catherine Reef is an award-winning author of nonfiction books for young people and adults. Her new dual biography, FRIDA & DIEGO: ART, LOVE, LIFE, explores the lives and work of two remarkable artists admired in Mexico and throughout the world, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, in a colorful, richly illustrated format. One of Booklist's Top Ten Arts Books for Youth 2014, FRIDA & DIEGO received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist.

Catherine also wrote THE BRONTE SISTERS: THE BRIEF LIVES OF CHARLOTTE, EMILY, AND ANNE. This popular young adult book received three starred reviews and was named to several annual lists of "best" books, including Kirkus's Best Books for Teens, Bank Street College's Best Children's Books, and the Amelia Bloomer Project List.

Among Catherine's other notable books are JANE AUSTEN: A LIFE REVEALED, one of Booklist's Top Ten Biographies for Youth; LEONARD BERNSTEIN AND AMERICAN MUSIC, which Kidsbiographer called "in many ways, a music appreciation course, one that the composer-conductor himself would approve"; ERNEST HEMINGWAY: A WRITER'S LIFE, a Golden Kite Honor Book and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People; and E. E. CUMMINGS: A POET'S LIFE, one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults and one of the New York Public Library's Book for the Teen Age.

Catherine works hard at her writing, but she also loves to travel, read, work with her hands, and spend time with her family and friends. She likes to cook and can bake a prize-worthy apple pie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Lesley TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've known Jane Austen is my favorite author from the very first time I started reading Pride and Prejudice. Over the years I've read her major novels many times and am slowly making my way through Jane Austen's Letters (New Edition) Collected and Edited by Deirdre Le Faye which is no small task. But, as a true Janite, it is my privilege to read them. When I noticed this book, and then when I realized it was geared toward readers in the age 12 and up category I decided to find out how Catherine Reef would summarize Austen's life into approximately 180 pages. I'm very happy to say that she has done it well and this is a fantastic book filled with the fascinating bits of information which make Jane Austen such a 'real' person.

Some authors try to portray Austen as too good to be true, too good to be a real person. If you have a chance to read any of the Austen novels you immediately see that Austen was a keen observer of human nature and she must have had some of those very same traits she writes about in order to recognize them in others. I liked the way historical fact was woven into the telling of this story so that it was interesting and pointed out how close Austen came in her novels to portraying the people and events she witnessed in her daily life. Each of Austen's six major novels is discussed regarding the story line and by including them while imparting information about Jane's private life the reader can see how she pulled her ideas from real life.

This is a very well written biography of a true giant in literary history. I am grateful to Catherine Reef for managing to be so thorough with the details while not once becoming boring. A remarkable feat which will be appreciated by readers of all ages who explore this work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Diane B. Wilkes VINE VOICE on March 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It seems that this book is aimed at teenagers--as I read JANE AUSTEN: A LIFE REVEALED, I wondered who the target audience was, and feared there really is none. This is a biography, but it often reads like a textbook, wherein terms and history are explained and interspersed in paragraph form. Talk about killing a mood! I can understand that these explanations are necessary, but there are so many that they are intrusive. Footnotes would have made this book vastly more pleasant.

As such, I don't know to whom I could recommend the book--the teenagers I know who are interested in Jane Austen will find adult biographies (like Claire Tomalin's JANE AUSTIN: A LIFE) more accessible.

Having said that, there are a few things to like about JANE AUSTEN: A LIFE REVEALED. I've read numerous biographies of Jane Austen and still learned one or two things from this very well-researched book. Included are a family tree and lots of resource material and, best of all, wonderful illustrations of era-appropriate items such as cross-hatched letters and cartoons. There are also illustrations from early editions of Jane's books.

I should have said "Austen's books," but I am an unabased Janeite. And any Jane is good Jane.

This is just not great Jane.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Catherine Reef authored over forty nonfiction books, including other biographies. She writes well, simply, graphically, drawing readers into her tale, and the book has many pictures. She overcame a serious problem with this volume, for little is known about Jane Austen (1775-1817), one of the world's most beloved writers, for there are conflicting reports about her. Did she like people, or did this author of such books as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, books about love and family, really dislike people and even mock them? After her death at age 41, unmarried, her niece praised her, "I do not suppose she ever in her life said a sharp thing." Yet she herself wrote, "I do not want People to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal."

Reef tells us about the heavy-handed and discriminatory life in England during Austen's lifetime. The nobility ruled and looked down upon the non-noble. Women were disparaged; they couldn't inherit money; whether married or not, their life depended upon the whim and will of men. Jane once had trouble traveling a hundred miles because there was no man to take her. She published six mature novels between 1811 and 1818, all anonymously, because she was a woman. Her father, a clergyman of modest means, not her mother who had no say, gave up one of his sons to a rich childless relative for adoption so that the boy would be able to inherit money. The people believed that all of this was the will of a wise God.

Schools and teachers were unregulated and frequently unsanitary; food was scanty at school and many schools didn't allow outside play. Jane almost died in one of them. Her teacher did die from an infection. She quite school forever at age 10.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William D. Curnutt TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Whether or not you are a Jane Austen fan you will find this short history of the life of Jane Austen very informative. Reef does a good job of researching Janes life and her family. The first half of the book reads like a history lesson with lots of facts, names, dates and accounts of Janes upbringing and early writings.

You will be given a short but very accurate account of Janes life. You will walk away with a better understanding of how her books very much reflect the lives of those she lived among. Janes books are a great lesson in the class system of England during her life. Her upbringing in a clergyman's home is well reflected in her works. Her own family had it's share of navy officers as well as Pastors. So her writings have such a real life of their own because they portray what Jane observed as she was growing up.

The second half of the book gives short summaries of the main books that made Jane Austen famous. Reef talks about original titles and why they were changed as well as the problems of publishing during the late 1700's and early 1800's. Through this summaries young readers may grow interested in wanting to read Jane's works.

This short book is well done and could be used in any literature class to help students come to know about Jane Austen, her family and her writings.

Buy this short book and give it to your children or teens to introduce them to the world of a wonderful writer.

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