Authors: Roy and Lesley Adkins
Publisher: The Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-0-670-78584-1

In her novels, Jane Austen brilliantly portrayed the lives of the middle and upper classes, but barely mentioned the cast of characters who constituted the bulk of the population,” Roy and Lesley Adkins write in their book, Jane Austen’s England.

At four hundred and twenty-two pages, this hardbound book with a cross-stitching design of time-period objects on the front page is a tribute to the land, people, and ways of England during Jane Austen’s lifetime that enabled her to produce such classic writings.

After eight pages of maps and an introduction, the book has twelve thorough chapters, ending with pages on weights and measures, a chronological overview, notes, bibliography, lists of maps and illustrations, acknowledgements, and an extensive index. There are also sixteen glossy black and white pages of photographs of Austen, writings, hard-to-read publications, artwork, and buildings. Targeted toward her fans, this is an excellent resource for early nineteenth century living in England that could be used for collegiate educational purposes.

No doubt the beloved female novelist of the day wrote wonderful stories of the middle and upper class society in her tomes, yet this book is a compilation of the world that surrounded her during forty-one years of life. With the aid of diaries, writings, newspaper articles, legal documents, travelogues, memoirs, and histories, the book lightly describes Jane and her upbringing; but it concentrates on the rigid division of societal classes of poor verses wealthy, landowners controlling servants, and day-to-day lifestyles.

With many quotes from William Holland, Parson Woodforde, and others, the writers correlate Austen’s life starting at her birth and ending at her death to what was happening around her in their chapters on marriage, sex, children, education, home, health, fashion, religion, employment, leisure, traveling, illness, medicine, and dying.

Besides learning King George III reigned while Britain was at war during most of Austen’s life, she was sent to Oxford at age seven for private tutoring, nearly died of typhus, enjoyed dancing and the seaside, and, although proposed to, she never married and left everything to her sister in her will.

The reader gets a small peek into the famed author’s private life but eyes become wide-opened in learning how life and people around her acted and behaved. At that time, marriage was usually forced or arranged based on status, women averaged birthing six to seven babies, condoms were made out of animal intestines, under-aged children worked hard in mines, land was the ultimate decider of wealth, and bloodletting was a common cure for ailments.

Authors Adkins and Adkins offer an extensive, detailed study of early nineteenth century England, producing a marvelous, informative and complex textbook of the life, time, and viewpoint of both rich and poor ordinary people who became the creative backdrop in all of Jane Austen’s books.

This book was furnished by the publicist for review purposes.

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