Author: Joan Strasbaugh

Publisher: Sourcebooks

ISBN-10: 1402282036

ISBN-13: 978-1402282034

Just as in Jane Austen’s day, all proper young ladies had to be consummate letter writers (as witness the twenty-one letters that play a pivotal role in plot development in Pride and Prejudice), so is the modern-day woman required to be a doyen of list making (so much, in fact, that their doing so has become the subject of many a radio drama/comedy—just think of BBC Radio 4’s Kerry’s List, for one). If you think of list making as simply being a boring or mundane chore, and as a rather mechanical way of attempting to manage your increasingly hectic lifestyle, think again. It truly can be fun!

Such a sense of thoroughgoing enjoyment is conveyed through Janeite Joan Strasbaugh’s The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen. As befits one who is such a keen manager of aspects of the literary world that she was able to mastermind organising the Jane Austen in the Twenty-first Century Humanities Festival at the University of Wisconsin, her latest book raises the art of annotated listmaking to the level of a new art.

Not only does Strasbaugh list the details of many aspects of the great novelist Austen’s life (relating to her home, family and friends, among others) that enable one to come to a deeper understanding of her work, but she also provides valuable insights into her writing as well. Best of all, these are not simple lists of objective facts, but enrich one’s grasp on what made Austen such a successful author of universal merit and renown, by including a wealth of relevant quotations that facilitate one’s growing awareness of what gave rise to life, love and laughter during the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century. The sources of said quotations are so various and varied that they provide a rich panoply of outlooks on Austen that could not otherwise easily have been incorporated into such a small volume, and in so easily readable a manner. The text is accompanied by numerous black-and-white illustrations that also serve to increase the reader’s understanding of the milieu within which Austen wrote.

One gains the idea throughout that what Strasbaugh is attempting to do by taking what apparently is a very lighthearted approach to Jane Austen and her world is to entice prospective Janeites into a world in which she delights, for The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen has so many hidden depths that it is a provocative and stimulating work, despite its relatively slim size (224 pages in all). A work that deserves to be popular, The List Lover’s Guide could just as easily grace a young girl’s locker as it could an academic’s bookshelf. In short, Strasbaugh deserves to be commended for making a subject that has elicited so much intellectual debate over the years so accessible to all and sundry in the current day.

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