It's refreshing to get such a passionate and contrarian account of Jane Austen's life, though the book's emphasis on thwarted emotions and family misdeeds will undoubtedly displease the more traditional-minded of her admirers. David Nokes, a prominent scholar of 18th-century English literature, views Austen as "a wild beast" (her phrase) transformed by well-meaning relatives into a demure spinster through wholesale bowdlerizing of her letters and personal papers. Nokes's narrative doesn't tell us anything new, but by stressing Austen's ambition and acerbity, he offers a welcome alternative perspective.
From Library Journal
As Valerie Grosvenor Myer did in her recent Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart (LJ 5/1/97), Nokes (English, King's Coll., Univ. of London) dispels the benign, sweet, "literary maiden aunt" portrait perpetuated by Austen's relatives. This more frank and open account of her life and family almost reads like one of Austen's novels. Rather than present history as such, Nokes gradually introduces characters and unfolds details and events as they happened or were perceived. Nokes also includes a number of documented quotations of the characters to enhance the more novel-like effect, and he incorporates his own interpretations as if from an omniscient narrator, making the biography interesting and lively. While Myer used much of the same information, Nokes provides more detailed background, regarding, for example, the rejected marriage proposal, the exiled afflicted Austen son, and the aunt accused of thievery. For most literature collections.?Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
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