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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679766766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679766766
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The author of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and other comedies of manners gets a biography similar in tone to her own books: intelligent but not intellectual, witty without being nasty. Claire Tomalin, author of four previous biographies of notable British women, treats Jane Austen (1775-1817) with the respect her genius deserves. Tomalin eschews gossip and speculation in favor of a sober account of the writer's life that nonetheless sparkles with sly humor. Perceptive analyses of each of Austen's novels, with autobiographical links suggested but never insisted upon, add to the value of Jane Austen: A Life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Despite only a few surviving personal papers and letters, no autobiographical notes, and no diaries written by Jane Austen, attempts to piece together the life and personality of the author abound. An experienced biographer, Tomalin makes do by focusing more on the Austen family, acquaintances, and friends than on Austen herself, forthrightly acknowledging, "It is only because of her writing that we think them worth remembering; and yet she is at almost every point harder to summon up than any of them...she is as elusive as a cloud in the night sky." Like David Nokes's recent biography, Jane Austen (LJ 9/1/97), Tomalin's presents an engaging story of the life and times of the Austen family. Although Tomalin's biography is not as detailed as Nokes's, it offers a freshness in its attention to, and compassion regarding the child-rearing practices of the Austens, the physical demands on child-bearing women, and to the portrayal of Austen's will, determination, and energy in her final days. Recommended for literature collections for its perspective and minimal speculations.?Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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This is pretty well written and very readable.
hpyshpr
The good news about "Jane Austen: A Life" is that Claire Tomalin is a gifted writer and her book will be a page-turner for many fans.
D. S. Thurlow
I've used this book for research before, and finally decided to buy it for my own collection and read it just for fun.
Tammy Powley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte L Walker on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
As someone who studied Jane Austen at university and read many of the "not-a-life-of-incident" accounts of her time, Claire Tomalin's biography proved even more compelling than I had expected. For the casual (ie non-academic) reader, this work presents the ideal combination of exhaustive research and a writer who clearly delights in her subject. Although I find myself miles away from my Jane Austen collection, Tomalin has left me longing to read again all Austen's works - including all the juvenalia and 'unfinisheds' that I somehow never quite found time for. Undoubtedly Austen fans will have rushed or will be rushing to read this book. However, I would urge anyone who has never seen the appeal in her works to give this a try, (just avoid Tomalin's excellent synopses of the novels). A call goes out, especially, to all those men out there - I know they exist, I'm married to one - who think Austen is "just for women". Read it and discover one of the greatest writers of all time.
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157 of 186 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Root on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I find it impossible to trust any would-be interpreter of Jane Austen who, in her analysis of Pride & Prejudice, writes the line: "Her [Mrs. Bennet's] restored faith that Lydia and Wickham will turn out very well is wonderfully brought to pass". This is easily my least favorite among the seven or so biographies that I have read; I was particularly disappointed after marvelous beginning that Tomalin made in describing Jane's birth and earliest life. I made myself read it a second time in order to be fair.

I am left with the feeling that while Tomalin genuinely admires Jane Austen, she has considerably more pity for her life than sympathy for her point of view. Ms. Tomalin places a great emphasis on the importance of passion and enthusiasm that I doubt Austen so uncritically shared. Indeed, Ms. Tomalin has to interchange JA's heroes and villains in order to come up with interpretations of the book that please her, and in several cases, insist that JA got things wrong in her epilogues. This leads to some odd juxtapositions that fit right in with Tomalin's somewhat overwrought thinking. Tomalin cannot accept that Marianne could move on and love Colonel Brandon, but she is also upset that Cassandra Austen spent the rest of her life mourning her dead fiance. Isn't perpetual mourning for a lost love what Tomalin would have Marianne doing, given that Willoughby married someone else? Consistently inconsistent, Tomalin lambastes Fanny Price for declining to marry someone that she doesn't love (or like or trust), at least while her true love remains available. Claudia Johnson, in her book
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
Tomalin wrote this book in part as a response to those (like Austen's brother and cousin) who noted the great novelist's life was one of little incident. Despite her noble intentions, Tomalin doesn't prove anything to the contrary--Austen's life was pretty routine, and we have so few documents pertaining to the particulars of it (since her sister and niece burned so many of her letters) that we have yet to find a biographer who can shed great light on her inestimable genius.
Tomalin, however, gives us a full and beautifully detailed analysis of what we CAN learn about Austen's life from the documents which are still extant. Best of all, she enriches this information by presenting rich, gossipy details about the many fascinating people whom Austen knew and loved. The somewhat nouveau riche society (pretending to be landed gentry) of late eighteenth-century makes for reading almsot as much fun as Austen's own books, and Tomalin writes with great verve. This is a marvelous read.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Forgiven on February 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is well researched, but draws some very silly assumptions, beginning with the almost Freudian obsession with her being placed with a wet nurse. There are some very good insights but most of the commentary (which is not always easy to differentiate from the fact) is unnecessary (and questionable) opinion. My biggest complaints are these: (1) the book should be entitled Eliza de Feuillide: A life, as JA is sometimes a minor character or not mentioned at all for pages at a time. Eliza is interesting, but not what I bought the book for. (2) Her mentions of Fanny Price are all very politically correct for the late 20th century but I doubt they have anything at all to do with the way JA saw her. She says she is "intolerant of sinners, whom she is ready to cast aside, just as Mr. Collins recommends that the Bennets should cast aside the sinful Lydia and Wickham. Austen, the novelist, was interested in the way religion could be invoked in different causes and practiced in different styles..." This entire statement IMHO makes no sense. Mr. Collins did recommend that the Wickhams be "cast aside" and is roundly mocked for his intolerance by Austen. FP on the other hand is not casting aside a sinner, she is chosing not to ally herself in the most intimate way with one whom she has no reason to trust. That is not intolerance. That is prudence. If the author looked more objectively at the issues, I think she would see a huge difference. I believe that the last sentence in the above quote should read "Tomalin, the novelist, is interested in the way religion could be invoked in different causes and practiced in different styles..."
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