So I’ve never read anything written by Jane Austen. I’m not sure how that happened, but it did. I hadn’t even seen one of the many films / series based on her books (other than Clueless) until about two years ago, when I watched the Pride and Prejudice series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I still haven’t read any of her work, but I now feel a bit more prepared to do so.
The Jane Austen Handbook is a 200-page book that reads as a guide to living in Regency England. It assumes the reader is actually living in that time period (as opposed to reading about a history of it), and assumed the reader is in the same class as most of the main characters in Ms. Austen’s novels. It’s a clever convention, and for the most part I enjoyed it. I think it does a decent job of explaining the period without judging it, although of course as usual the margins of my version are filled with “ack” and “hell no,” especially when discussing what unmarried women were allowed to do.
This was a pretty quick read, but I’m glad I picked it up for a couple of reasons. First, I do plan to start reading Ms. Austen’s novels when I’m traveling this summer (ah, the beauty of the e-reader – I was able to load all of her works onto it in a matter of seconds), so it’s nice to have a bit of an understanding of the time period in which her works reside. And second, when I do inevitably get confused by a term or something a character did, I can refer back to this book and have a better sense of what I’m reading.