Sunday, 19 April 2015

Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou

Book Cover: Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou
There are many biographies of Jane Austen, most of which focus on her writing years. We know that Jane wrote plays and stories from around the age of 12 but this biography instead focuses more on her life before she started writing, to look at what formed her up until that point. Not much is known of Austen’s childhood, but Pliscou has pulled together what was known of general life at the time, and of the Austens’ lives in particular. The first section of the biography is in a speculative style, i.e. third person, but giving an insight on what may have been Jane Austen’s point of view at the time in question:
‘James was home, and announced that he and his brothers and their friends were going to put on a play! It was a thrilling story called ‘Matilda’, and James even wrote a new beginning and ending for it. 
How exciting to watch the rehearsals, lively with laugher and squabbles. And what fun to finally sit in the dining parlor and see the actors, splendid in their costumes, saying their lines so well – and to be spellbound by the tale of murder and swordfights, trickery and true love, as it unfolded before your eyes!’
Illustration from 'Young Jane Austen' by Lisa Pliscou
A sample of one of the illustrations
This first section is beautifully illustrated with some really charming pictures by Massimo Mongiardo, which were commissioned for this book. I thought the author did a good job of putting herself in the shoes of a child of the time, for example there are some comments relating to girls receiving different treatment to boys, and this not being questioned but at the time girls were treated differently to boys because the expectations of life were different for females. I think this speculative approach would make this book an unintimidating read for a younger reader to tackle.

For myself, though, I wanted some more facts and a bit more detail on some of the events mentioned, and the second part of the book provides this, repeating the text of the first part and following this up with details, where known, and the source of those details. Sometimes things are also put into societal context. I found the repetition of the first text very helpful, as it saved me flipping back through the book to see exactly what was written. Here is an example of one of the expansions, in relation to the part I’ve quoted above, about James Austen writing a play:
‘In winter 1782, when Jane turned seven, the first known play at the Austens’ was staged. Enthusiasm for home theatricals had been sweeping the nation for some time. Over the next few years, other, equally ambitious theatricals were staged at the Austens’ home, although it’s not known if Jane ever took a speaking part.’
Though the book is primarily focused on Austen’s youth, there is also a section outlining the later events of her life, and a timeline of the major events of her life. There are not many facts known about this period in Austen’s life, but I thought they were put into context well. I would also like to mention how attractive the book is. Aside from the drawings, which are lovely, the pages also have decoration. There are some books that are equally good in paper copy and in e-book but I would really recommend getting the hard copy book, as I can’t imagine that you could get the same effect on a screen as you do in the book. I think it’d also make a lovely gift, just because it’s so pretty. I found this a very readable and engaging book and I very much enjoyed it. I’d rate this book at 4½ stars.

4.5 star read

*I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for my honest review 

Last week Lisa Pliscou visited with a guest post and an international giveaway of a copy of Young Jane Austen. I’m going to extend the deadline on the giveaway until Tuesday, 21 April in case my review has whetted your appetite to obtain a copy! To enter, please just leave a comment on the giveaway post, and for a bonus entry, leave a comment on this post too. Please leave a way for me to contact you should you win. Please note this giveaway has now closed.

15 comments:

  1. I'd love a chance to win the book. Seems like a fresh point of view.

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    1. Forgot email address

      felicialso@gmail.com

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    2. Hi Felicia, thanks for commenting. Good luck in the giveaway :)

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  2. would like to read this, here's hoping - as a history lover I look forward to reading about life during this time as well as Jane's life

    meikleblog at gmail dot com

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you get to read it, Vesper.

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  3. I loved that it had an annotated section and notes too, Ceri. Gorgeous book!

    Please don't enter me. ;)

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    1. Yes, I enjoyed the first part of it, but I found myself wishing for some more facts and context and there they were, in part two! I saw that you'd reviewed it, but I didn't want to read your review then as I knew I'd be writing my own, I will be interested to read your thoughts on it.

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  4. Oh this looks good and 4plus stars is a definite recommendation!

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    1. I think you'd like it Tamara, and even if you don't have time to read it at the moment, you could get some enjoyment from just looking at it, it's very pretty!

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  5. Sounds interesting and educational, hoping to read it soon!

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    1. I found it very interesting MaryAnn, I hope you enjoy it when you get to read it.

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  6. You have us captivated ... please enter us in the giveaway ~ Noe and Cindy
    noeandcindy.write @ gmail.com

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    1. Will do, thanks for commenting :)

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  7. Each time I read a review makes this book sound more and more intriguing. Thank you for the generous giveaway. skamper25 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. I hope you get to read it, Debbie :)

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