Book Review - Jane Austen: A Life Revealed by Catherine Reef


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.

ARC received as e-book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through NetGalley.

This is the first biography of Jane Austen aimed at teens. I loved Jane Austen for as long as I can remember, including my teens, so I can't speak for the teens of today, but the teen me would have loved it. The adult me did.

Catherine Reef looks at Austen's life in detail. She draws from historical facts, letters, etc. and includes recollections from family members, illustrations and photographs. When telling readers about Jane Austen and her life, she points out quite a bit of historical facts relevant to her time, and they're very fun and interesting to read. I especially enjoyed Cassandra's illustrations of one of Jane's very early works, the early illustrations of Austen's novels and the photo and description of 'bathing machines' from the 1800s.

In addition to these, Reef also uses images from film adaptations of Jane Austen's books, and doesn't forget to mention that her novel Emma inspired the 1995 film "Clueless," which I must add is one of my favorite movies.

The only parts that went slowly for me were the parts where Reef describes Jane's novels. I get the purpose it serves though: it's great for those who haven't read any of her novels and are planning to. But for me, it was slowing this book down since I've read the novels, all of them more than once.

I only have one warning: there's a family tree at the end of the book; look at it before you start reading. I didn't realize it was there until I got to the end, and I must admit the names might get confusing at times.

It still makes me want to re-read the Austen novels, though, which I just might do this year.

The book will be published on April 18, 2011.

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