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The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World Hardcover – April 1, 2007
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"What Would Jane Do?" No need to guess if teens have this handbook at their side. They will easily navigate the ins and outs of how genteel folk were expected to act in Regency society. Sullivan explains Austen's world and the everyday activities of its inhabitants with a gentle humor that makes their actions clear and, sometimes, even fun. Some of the activities described are outrageous for today's sensibilities, such as the idea of recruiting an actual hermit to live in your estate's hermitage "for full realism." On the other hand, "Country hospitality allows travelers to drop in and request a tour of any grand estate" is one some readers may wish was still allowed. Not all of the social hints are outdated; most of the rules on "How to Be a Good Correspondent" and those on planning a menu—"Consider what is available in the current season and what kind of food can be obtained locally, and choose your dishes accordingly"—are good contemporary advice. A valuable companion to Austen's novels. —School Library Journal
About the Author
Margaret C. Sullivan is the editrix of Austenblog.com and an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Her favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion.
Top customer reviews
It included information like what the different servants do, correct behavior at a ball, how children were educated, how much someone's income was worth in modern terms, and so on. She included things that will help you to better understand the novels and things you simply might be curious about.
The author didn't go into great detail, but she covered a wide variety of subjects. The light tone makes it very readable and enjoyable. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen who want to know a little more about what life was like in the Regency Period.
Some reviewers have snobbishly complained that The Jane Austen Handbook is just for those who came to appreciate Jane Austen after seeing "Colin Firth in a wet shirt" in the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice, but to that I say, the accusation is, one, off base and two, out of line. I, for one, studied Austen in grad school before that movie ever came out and I love it and this book. Secondly, even if it is true for some readers, so what? What sort of superiority are these detractors trying to claim -- "I read Jane first so I'm better than you"? That's an indication of a coarse and simpering immaturity that Miss Austen herself would not countenance and would indeed be inclined to masterfully caricature.
The Jane Austen Handbook is a combination handbook or primer and compact compendium of Regency life. It is for those of us who live and work and love and dress in the modern world, but who nonetheless like to display civility, sometimes laced with irony, in our speech and actions, to fold our letters property and to drink our tea from china cups, even as we work for our own "10,000 pounds a year" (Mr. Darcy's income, worth between one-half and six million in today's currency, as the section on Modern Money Equivalents on page 27 explains).
Indeed, as the detractors point out, the information in this book can be obtained from numerous other sources, but why should anyone have to apologize for wanting it all in one attractive and amusing place?
Margaret C. Sullivan's writing style reminds me of that of Judith Martin, a/k/a Miss Manners, whose works I also recommend to the modern Jane Austen acolyte, particularly her wonderful first novel, Gilbert.
I learned some stuff too--for example, Sullivan's aside about port being passed to the left prompted a delve into our online OED to discover the etymology of the word "port," which was a fun little exercise on its own. I liked having the rules of the major card games at my fingertips, and I finally learned what a Cotillion dance is. I also thought Sullivan's summary of Austen's life was quite nicely done.
I expect to keep this book handy so that I can pick it and amuse myself whenever the mood strikes. It is a gem.
Well, now there's a darling little book called,"The Jane Austen Handbook, A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World" by Margaret C. Sullivan. It is absolutely the cutest little thing and just full of Victorian information, all 224 pages.
I can't even begin to tell you all the information that's in this very sweet and pretty book. There's just too much to mention. But I do highly recommend it to all Austen fans. It's a book you should not be without if you want to really understand her works and life.
On a scale from one to ten, I would give this little jewel a 10+. If you are thinking about buying it, don't hesitate! You will be thrilled!!