[Review] The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

[rating:3.5]
Author: Margaret C. Sullivan
Series:
None
Genre: Non-Fiction – History
Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 216
Release Date: 2007
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Received for review from Quirk Books.

It’s very difficult for me to review a non-fiction book. As fantastically interesting as I find them, I struggle to think of the right things to say, because rather than being written with a certain flow like a story would be, it is written in sections and blocks. How exactly do you review and critique fact?

For starters, if for no other reason, you should own The Jane Austen Handbook because it’s beautiful. From the very simple but lovely cover design ((Yes, I like silhouettes, okay? I think they tell enough whilst maintaining a small sense of mystery and they’re simple. I like simple but lovely.)) to the lovingly drawn line drawings by Kathryn Rathke speckled throughout the book, its’ design is a very subtle beauty. Along with these and the burgundy colours used, the style creates an elegant atmosphere which is reminiscent of the Regency era.

The book itself reads like a guidebook on life skills for the high class lady, with such guides as: how to become an accomplished lady, how to plan a dinner party, how to dress, how to attend a ball, how to elope to Scotland, and many many more valuable life lessons. Sullivan’s writing style is so flawless that you sometimes forget that you aren’t a member of the early 18th century gentry. The quotes included in every chapter from Austen’s stories may helpfully remind you, however, and they also keep the book firmly as a handbook to Austen’s world and not just any old Regency history book. As well as teaching you how to be a lady, there are interesting facts throughout about Austen’s life, and the other kinds of people that lived through this period. There is also a mini-Austen biography at the back, as well as a very helpful glossary, information about her books, and the various contemporary adaptations and a brilliant list of resources.

The Jane Austen Handbook is a great book for new and old fans of Jane Austen alike, and even if you aren’t much of an Austen fan, it is a very interesting book about the ways and customs of high society in Regency England. You will enjoy familiarising yourself with the time period, and if you’re already familiar with it then it is still a good companion book to own.