Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Kim Wilson
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Limited
The finer points of tea-making and the relevancy that it had for those who lived during Jane Austen’s time are described with a deep sense of appreciation in this introduction to the habit, as portrayed in the novelist’s own works and other writings. As Tom Carpenter (Trustee at Jane Austen’s House, Chawton) points out in his Foreword to this guide, “It is easy to pass over what may appear to be minor or peripheral description to the major story in Jane Austen’s novels, but as this book shows, there is frequent reference to this simple demonstration of hospitality that underpinned the expected social custom of the day.” Kim Wilson herself stresses that “At the center of almost every social situation in her novels one finds tea.”
Indeed, the passing of the day was marked by many during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with the drinking of this beverage. Wilson broadens the scope of her work, however, beyond the scope of the novelist and her characters to show how the habit evolved across a broad swathe of society, and how the quality of tea that you drank, as well as the paraphernalia with which you drank it, was an indicator of your social standing.
Although we no longer tend to put such effort into our drinking of tea nowadays, with teabags being the standard order of the day for many, you do still find those who have aspirations to the ilk of Earl Grey and other more select teas, and tea is still one of the most commonly consumed hot liquids. Wilson caters for our needs in this respect, too, as she gives numerous recipes throughout the text of updated versions of, as well as the original recipes for, treats from the teatimes of Austen’s day. Examples of such recipes are those for mouth-watering lemon cheesecakes (with the original recipe taken from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple (1796)), and for comforting barley water (with the original recipe taken from The London Art of Cookery (1807)).
The illustrations of Tea with Jane Austen are plentiful, and range from full-color, full-page plates to tastefully done, and always highly relevant, line drawings. The bibliography and index are more than adequate for a book of this nature, with the former being divided between “Jane Austen: Her Works and Her Times,” “Books about Tea” and “Period Novels and Poetry,” from which Wilson quotes freely throughout the text (with some of the verses being so truly delightful that they might come in handy for a kitchen tea). Most of the index refers to characters and other personages who are mentioned throughout the work in relation to their tea-drinking habits and affiliations, but the author also lists each and every recipe included, both “historical” and “modern.”
Tea with Jane Austen is a winning and pleasurable text that should delight many a Janeite. Originally brought out in the 2004, this edition was published in 2011, with the demand for the work having led to its republication.
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