Read Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields Online


With the same sensitivity and artfulness that are the trademarks of her award-winning novels, Carol Shields explores the life of a writer whose own novels have engaged and delighted readers for the past two hundred years. In Jane Austen, Shields follows this superb and beloved novelist from her early family life in Steventown to her later years in Bath, her broken engagemeWith the same sensitivity and artfulness that are the trademarks of her award-winning novels, Carol Shields explores the life of a writer whose own novels have engaged and delighted readers for the past two hundred years. In Jane Austen, Shields follows this superb and beloved novelist from her early family life in Steventown to her later years in Bath, her broken engagement, and her intense relationship with her sister Cassandra. She reveals both the very private woman and the acclaimed author behind the enduring classics Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. With its fascinating insights into the writing process from an award–winning novelist, Carol Shields’s magnificent biography of Jane Austen is also a compelling meditation on how great fiction is created....

Title : Jane Austen: A Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143035169
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Jane Austen: A Life Reviews

  • Duane
    2019-05-22 00:23

    Carol Shields writes novels mostly, and very good ones at that. She won a Pulitzer Prize for The Stone Diaries. This one is a biography, a biography of one of the most beloved authors in English literature, Jane Austen. Austen, even with her success, lived a plain and simple life. Some biographers have embellished the details of her life, romanticized it to the point that Austen herself would probably laugh. But Shields interpretation is simplistic, and one gets the feeling more realistic. This well written account give us a different look at this 19th century enigma that was and is Jane Austen.

  • Karen
    2019-04-24 23:03

    I enjoyed this slim biography of Jane Austen. Shields does not manufacture a mysterious past for her, but instead focuses on Austen as a writer. It's a less romantic, but more realistic and respectful approach than movies like "Becoming Jane."She theorizes that Austen's novels are about a search for a home, written in a time when women's only available path was through marriage. From that came the difficult moral choices of staying true to one's self or accepting financial security through an inferior marriage. Through this lens she reviews what is known of Austen life, sorting out the rumor from the more limited truth. Shields was a wonderful writer. I recently reread The Stone Diaries, and read her final novel "Unless" for the first time. In both novels, she details the lives of ordinary women, pointing to deeper issues of aging, loss, love, and what it means to be a complete person. Directly and indirectly, she challenges a presumption that serious books are about men.In my mind she's the ideal biographer for Austen. A writer herself and devoted fan, she highlights the universal themes in Austen's novels, which have humor and and carefully drawn characters, but the moral choices and bravery of ordinary people make them classics. Shields died, in around 2003, of breast cancer, the same disease she claims ended Austen's life. With her and with Austen, I miss the novels that were yet to come.

  • Obsidian
    2019-05-15 19:14

    I read this book as part of the Dead Writers Society's Genre Fiction Challenge for June 2016 and the Literary Birthday Challenge for 2016. At this point I am wishing I chose the other book for the genre challenge. I don't know what to say here besides this entire book read as someone who seemed to think that Jane Austen was not that attractive, was bitter and angry that she was a spinster, and who apparently was jealous that her sister Catherine was away from her. Shields really doesn't give you any insight into Jane Austen. She has a bunch of theories that are based on the books she wrote. For example, she says that Austen must have only loved bookish men because all of Jane Austen's heroes read books. Hell I remember reading Mansfield Park and I don't recall Edmund reading. I do remember how sanctimonious he was to Fanny though. I really wish that Shields had stuck with a straight autobiography. Instead this whole book read like a very badly put together Buzzfeed article mixed with some references to Wikipedia. I also really didn't like that the timelines were all over the place. Shields at times expects the reader to already know who people are at times and I got confused when she would retell certain people's biography again and again in the story (e.g. Austen's cousin Eliza is mentioned a lot in this book). The writing is not much to write home about and I thought the flow was terrible. If the book had told a straightforward tale from Austen's birth to death that would have been something. Instead we jump around way too much. I really don't know what else to say except that I found this book to be a complete waste of time and I only kept reading because I started to find it hilarious that if Shields saw that the color blue is mentioned in a story that must mean that Austen liked it.

  • Garythe Bookworm
    2019-04-29 20:23

    I was drawn to Carol Shields' Jane Austin: A Life because I admire Shields' work as a novelist and because I am in the clutches of a severe attack of Austenitis. It hits me annually, sometimes accompanied by a far less pleasurable bout of gout. Thankfully the gout went away, but the Austen fever lingers. Shields' title is a marvel of simplicity, as is her impressionistic biographical sketch. She confesses that there is scant evidence to draw from so she wisely chooses to focus on an analyses of a few of the novels in the context of major events in her subject's brief life. If you've read other Austen biographies you may want to skip this. But if you are looking for a fluid synopsis of both her life and her work, this is practically perfect. Shields is first and foremost an admiring reader. She credits more extensive biographies as her source material, and highlights crucial snippets from Austen's correspondence, mostly from letters she penned to her elder sister, Cassandra. According to Shields, their intimacy had its drawbacks. She suggests that the family conspired to keep the spinster aunts apart as much as possible. Cassandra clearly influenced her younger sister in crucial ways, in life and in death. She even destroyed letters she found incriminating after Jane died, possibly from breast cancer, at forty-one. Incriminating to whom we can only guess. Shields pays particular attention to Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. She dislikes Lady Susan but thought the unfinished Sandition had great potential for expanding Austen's subject matter. I've always thought that Mrs. Bennet gets a bum rap and that Mr. Bennet is viewed more positively than he deserves. So does Shields. She points out that Mrs. Bennet had legitimate concerns about her daughters' prospects and that her husband made things worse by ridiculing her and them. She also stands up for the much maligned Fanny Price. Despite Austen's assertion that no one but she would care for Emma Woodhouse, both Shields and I adore her. What really sold this for me was Shields' belief that Jane Austen, laboring over her brilliant fictions, creates again and again a vision of refuge furnished with love, acceptance, and security, an image she herself would be able to call a home of her own. That's an enticing prospect for anyone, even a gouty old guy like me.

  • Sandy (CA)
    2019-05-06 00:24

    The best outcome of my frustrating experience of reading this speculation about the life of Jane Austen is that I learned the difference between "biography" and "literary biography". In a modern biography, I expect to find at least (i.e. not only) two elements: (a) some sense of the chronological events and experiences which shaped the personality of the subject; and (b) evidence that the biographer has researched primary source materials. This book provides neither. The chronology of Jane Austen's life is blurred by the author's penchant for meandering backwards and forwards in time (quite admirable, I will grant you, for a novelist) and for embellishing and interweaving Austen's life with events from the lives of her numerous fictional heroines. It felt like a trip on the Starship Enterprise, through black holes and time warps and -- whoops! -- back to England occasionally. I was completely disoriented and distraught. In her text, Shields neither refers to primary sources (with the exception of several references to the 1870 memoir of Jane Austen's nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh) nor provides footnotes. The closest thing to a bibliography is the two-page "A Few Words About Sources" which describes (in prose rather than in scholarly bibliographic form), some 20th-century titles with authors' names, as well as the aforementioned Austen-Leigh memoir and Jane Austen's Letters (edited by Deirdre Le Faye). Such a casual approach to bibliographic information does not even pay lip-service to the serious scholarly work which has been done on the topic of Jane Austen and her writing.I had muttered and mumbled my way through 22 of the 23 chapters in this confusing book before encountering this enlightening phrase -- . . . the point of literary biography is to throw light on a writer's works . . . . Aha! So this is a literary biography! That does change the playing field. Literary biography, according to Nicholas Pagan, author of Rethinking Literary Biography: A Postmodern Approach to Tennessee Williams, is "the writing of the lives of men and women who were themselves writers". As a sub-genre which is in its infancy, the style and substance of literary biography seem to be both fluid and forgiving, so it is quite possible that Shields has met or exceeded the requirements of the genre. However, I have no interest in delving into the history of the sub-genre of literary biography. Suffice it to say that I now realize that I was using the wrong measuring tool to assess this particular book. Mea culpa. I have learned something -- and isn't that why I read?

  • Deborah Markus
    2019-04-21 20:02

    Amazing that so short a book could be so unsatisfactory for so many reasons. Just a few examples:Shields insists all throughout the book that Austen "longed" all her life to be married, and that any happiness she managed to find was because she learned to live with disappointment. (Shields also mentions how annoying it is when readers conflate a fiction writer's life with her writing, right after "explaining" how much Austen has in common with the heroine of "Persuasion.")Hold this book carefully if you do read it. If you tip it the least bit, all the billions of "Austen must have"s, "Austen would have"s, and "Austen surely"s will fall out and break your foot.Shields hates "Lady Susan." HATES it. How on earth can anyone who loves Austen enough to want to write even a brief biography of her not enjoy this darkly hilarious novella?Shields describes the money left to Austen's sister, Cassandra Austen, as not very much -- "certainly not enough to live on." The sum was a thousand pounds. A YEAR. The main character family (mother, two grown daughters, and one teenager) in "Sense and Sensibility" manage to live in cozy gentility, employing three servants, on 500 a year. A thousand pounds a year for a single woman with no dependents would have been *ample.*Shields says that Emma is her favorite Austen heroine. She describes Mr. Knightley as drawing up lists of books for Emma to read. In fact, Mr. Knightley mentions admiring the lists of books Emma drew up for *herself* to read at various times of her life. The reader gets the feeling that she spent more time writing these lists than she ever did reading. Mr. Knightley saved one of the lists for some time, but he *never* wrote one for her.At the end of the book, Shields offers a bizarre list of body parts Austen never mentions in her novels, including toes. I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that halfway through this book, I was begging Jane Austen to die and put me out of my misery.

  • Cata
    2019-05-18 00:24

    Vou pausar Jane Austen- a Life e HP e a Ordem da Fénix porque vou participar em duas leituras conjuntas nos próximos dias

  • Antof9
    2019-04-30 22:00

    It doesn't happen to me very often, but I had to look up a word in this book! In the beginning of Chapter 8, the author uses "palimpsest". Please tell me I'm not the only one going for the Webster's right now :)Palimpsest: (lit., rubbed again) a parchment that has been written upon previously and that bears traces of the imperfectly erased texts.Here's how it was used: "Pride and Prejudice can be seen as a palimpsest, with Jane Austen's real life engraved, roughly, enigmatically, beneath its surface."I have been a fan of Jane since I first got P&P sometime between the 3rd and 6th grades. Of course, at the time I had no idea it was "classic literature" -- I just loved it! And have loved it over and over again for many years.I liked this book -- I even found the Prologue entertaining ". . .the Jane Austen Society of North America, an organization that comprises some of the world's most respected Austen scholars, as well as rank amateurs, like ourselves. . . . There is only minimal incense burning at these meetings, and no attempt to trivialize Jane Austen's pronouncements and mockingly bring her into our contemporary midst. . . (Wherever three or four come together in Jane Austen's name, there is bound to be a trivia quiz.. .)"I love it that scholars and fans ". . .can't even agree on what to call her. . . . 'Jane' itself feels too familiar an address to apply to the adult writer . . .Ms Austen is unthinkable. Miss Austen? No! (Cassandra, as the older sister, claims that title.) Austen on its own possesses an indelicacy; we know, somehow, that she would have been offended."One of the reasons I know why we like Jane so much -- "And, at the same time, she was reading. Everything we know about the family tells us that her reading was likely to have been unsupervised and random. Her father's bookshelves would have been open to her, and probably this good-hearted, busy man did not trouble to direct her choices. There existed very little that might be called children's writing, and so she plunged directly into the adult world of letters." This, about someone whose formal education stopped at the age of 11!For some reason, this description of her family delights me -- perhaps because my family is so sarcastic and witty? "We can only guess that parody was the family flavour, and that the Austens were proud citizens of a satirical age."I couldn't help but chuckle at this part: "There is a joke among novelists that in order to initiate strong action or to revive a wilting narrative it is only necessary to say: 'And so a stranger came to town.'" I found this book so interesting, and of course it made me want to read Sense & Sensibility (why have I never?) and find other Jane writing. Although the inscription on her tomb doesn't mention her books, we know and love them, and that's what has lasted. The tribute on her tomb is indeed beautiful: "The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained the regard of all who knew her, and the warmest love of her intimate connections."

  • Carol Clouds ꧁꧂
    2019-05-05 22:20

    I so wish GR had half stars!This wasn't quite a 4 star read for me, but was too good to put down as a mere 3!Shields has a very easy to read writing style. Due to the paucity of information about Jane Austen's life, a lot of the writing is speculative, but Shields gave good reasons for her theories (such as why Austen appeared to have stopped writing whilst living in Bath) & I found myself agreeing with a lot of Shields ideas.

  • Meg
    2019-05-11 21:24

    It feels like Jane Austen has always been a part of my life, so much so, that I never thought about reading a biography about her...I didn't need to, she was already a part of my older sister that gave me advice on love and being a strong woman....never mind that we are two centuries apart....and an ocean. I run to her books when I need to feel safe....and curling up in pjs and watching the BBC versions of her books...a cheap vacation. This year while abroad, it struck me that I could actually read about her life....though little is really known, so as I am a bit homesick, I thought I would return home to something familiar with this book. The book is well written and easy to read...nothing earth shattering, facts that are known by any Jane fan....but more details and reminders of the books...and how her life may have influenced it all. It was a nice reminder..and a comfort, and sadly the first time I read that she had probably died of breast cancer. Read if you are a fan of Jane Austen. It will make you feel like you are home.

  • Mona Lisa (ForestGreenReader)
    2019-05-16 16:21

    I'm reading this bio for a Jane Austen class I'm taking in university, I haven't read any of Jane Austen's novels YET. But after reading this short bio, I'm looking forward to getting into Pride and Prejudice and Emma.So onto the biography, very quickly I realized that this biography is mostly based on speculation and inference. I'm not sure if most biographies are this way (because I rarely read any), but it was kind of irritating to constantly see words like "possibly", "supposedly", and "based on". About 80% of the book is surrounded around the makings of the novels, the journey to publication, and guessing Jane Austen's personality based on (that phrase again) on the characters she has created.Shields had a weird fixation on the account that Jane Austen was never married (there also this whole chapter at the end questioning whether or not she was a virgin, which is weird). Jane Austen's spinisterhood was such a main theme in this bio, that I wonder if Jane Austen had this big of a problem with not being married as Shields is making it out to be. I also got the sense that although Shields believes Jane Austen is a brilliant writer, she didn't think too much about the author as a person. She repeatedly refers to Jane Austen letting her sister lead her life, possibly not being attractive, self depreciating, bitter, and insulting. This bio did cause me to be that more excited to dive into Jane Austen novels, Shields did a great job of summing up each novel and explaining the circumstances and characters.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-23 18:18

    A sympathetic biography by one author on another. The facts of Jane Austen's life can be picked up in any number of other biographies, but the strength of this short book is in Carol Shields' appraisal of Austen's influences and writing processes. Her research is tempered with empathy for her subject, making for an absorbing read.

  • ems
    2019-05-04 23:17


  • Tze-Wen
    2019-04-21 18:55

    [This review was originally posted on my blog.]In this concise biography, Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields describes the circumstances that influenced Jane Austen's writing. Shields does not waste time exploring Austen's day-to-day life nor her detailed habits, but succinctly depicts an image of a developing writer and the environment that nurtured her authoring skills. She often refers to James Edward Austen-Leigh's Memoir of Jane Austen and Jane's letters. For those who are interested, she lists a few important biographies and academic studies at the end of the book.Jane Austen grew up in a large clerical family with a small boarding school attached to her father's parsonage. A lot of merry distractions were to be had from family theatricals and the hustle and bustle from associating with neighbours. Reverend George Austen - himself a learned man - encouraged (or did not discourage) his daughter's literary pursuit: she was allowed access to his 500-book collection. At home, with six brothers and her sister Casssandra keeping her company, Jane Austen felt most comfortable and happy. She started writing small stories when she was very young and they were most likely read aloud to or read by her family. Many of these were later elaborated upon and worked into one of her six finished novels. According to Shields, Jane Austen's writing skills were entirely honed at home, having only her family members to reflect on and criticise her work. There were no opportunities for her to discuss the art of writing with fellow authors. Jane Austen: A Life draws an image of a young woman sentenced to spinsterhood, without a home of her own. Where the young Jane Austen was a happy and carefree creature, the adult version realised that without a decent dowry she would remain dependent on the goodwill of her relatives. Perhaps only through her heroines could she achieve a kind of independence. Jane Austen's class demanded that she were to be chaperoned at all times. This lack of privacy may have deepened her understanding of the small details that propel domestic and village life. Her happiness was found in her many nephews and nieces, the correspondence with Cassandra from whom she was not often apart, and of course her writing. Jane Austen was known to write and rewrite until she deemed her fiction satisfactory. The routines of Jane Austen were largely undisturbed until her ageing parents decided to move out of beloved Steventon and into rented rooms in Bath. A reason for this was their declining financial situation. Shields hints at the ulterior motive of finding suitable husbands for the two single women, but in reality Bath was several decades past its heyday and no longer the place for husband-hunting. She describes how Jane Austen was shocked into silence by their sudden removal from the only home she knew and would only pick up her pen almost ten years later. The years in Bath were not without merit, however, as Shields believes Jane Austen put her observing powers to use, soaking up everything that went on in society, to be spun into her later writing. In the last chapter of the book, the author discusses the fact that Austen never goes into the details of the physical; she talks about "regular features", "a fair complexion" and women having "not unpretty faces". Yet, as a reader, I did not notice this particular fact until Carol Shields mentioned it. I have not encountered any problems envisaging any of Austen's characters and have even felt them to be full of detail and depth. Such is her power of evocative writing that I never thought of her characters as solely - in Shields' words - "talking heads". The author of Jane Austen: A Life is evidently an admirer of her work and well-informed. If you are looking for a short biography that is entertaining and never superficial, this will be worth your while.

  • Mary Simonsen
    2019-04-27 22:07

    If you are interested in whether Jane Austen preferred strawberry to raspberry jam, then you will want to look for a biography other than Carol Shields’ Jane Austen, A Life. However, if you want a broad sweep of the life of the early 19th century author, then this slim volume is the perfect cup of tea. Carol Shields, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Stone Diaries, was asked by Penguin Books to write this biography. Because it was not meant to be comprehensive, I found it an easy read with a nice mixture of Jane’s personal life juxtaposed with her writing. From the biography:We think of Pride and Prejudice as Jane Austen’s sunniest novel, and yet it was written during a period of unhappiness. No letters survived from the year 1797, and this is a clue, though an unreliable one. Cassandra, we know, was recovering from the death of her fiancé, and Jane from her disappointment over Tom Lefroy. The household at Steventon had shrunk. Visitors continued to arrive, but the ongoing bustle of life in the country rectory had faded… Theatricals in the barn were a thing of the past. The Austen parents were growing older, and finances, too, were thinner. Yet from this difficult time sprang a fast-paced, exuberant, much loved novel with a new kind ofheoine, a young woman of warmth and intelligence who, by the flex of her own mind, remakes her future and makes it spectacularly.I always suspected that Jane’s relationship with Cassandra could not possibly be as perfect as one would think from reading about Pride and Prejudice's Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. In fact, there was the odd disagreement between the two Austen sisters and an occasional terse exchange of letters. Jane’s relationship with her brothers and extended family are a mixed bag. Edward was her favorite, James the least favorite. There is also a fascinating analysis of Jane's years of silence when she wrote very little:A series of discouragements conspired against her in the middle of her life, and the resulting silence means that everything we know of her during this period is a guessing game.This would change once Jane’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, provided his mother and sisters with a home at Chawton Cottage. It was in her Hampshire home that First Impressions would become Pride and Prejudice and she would write Emma, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park, and the rest, as they say, is history.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-07 23:14

    I've read all of Jane Austen's books (including the more obscure ones), I've read her letters (Shields may say over and over and over again that there are some that are destroyed - but let that not give you the impression there aren't many left, because there are), I've read several biographies. And I read this book and wondered if this book is about the same woman.Be that as it may - how we perceive a person, long gone, is always a matter of personal opinions. I do, however, have some issues with the book as a biography:First of all, Shield does not seem to take into account what was normal in Georgian England and from time to time she falls into the trap of assuming that what would be rational to a modern person would be rational for Austen and her family.Secondly, you can't use novels as biographical material. Sometimes Shields acknowledges this, but then she does just that. Over and over again. Thirdly, the novels are used to draw conclusions both Austen's life and her writing techniques - when the books were first written, though three of them were published much later and we know that they were edited. None of the original first drafts survive, we just don't know what they looked like. We can't say anything about what a witty heroine Austen created in Elizabeth Bennet back in 1796, because we don't know anything about that. All we know is what a witty heroine she published in 1813.And I must add that the last chapter is just... weird.

  • Milliebot
    2019-05-10 22:58

    This is a solid little biography about Jane's life, going more into detail about how the events of her life shaped and affected her writing, than the actual life events. I know the basic outline of Jane's life and her publishing struggles, so it was interesting to get this author's insight into how Jane's life shaped her personality. I would recommend this for casual Austen fans as it helps give the authoress some life but isn't too heavy on details, keeping it from potentially being dull.

  • Becca-Rawr
    2019-05-10 21:05

    After reading Pride and Prejudice I will openly admit I fell in love with Jane Austen as a writer. I was interested in reading more of her work and reading more on her as a woman. The day after having finished her most cherished novel, I went to the library and happened to see this book on the shelf. I thought it was a 'sign,' or at least a clever coincidence, and snatched it up to take out.This book probably wasn't something I should have started with when Jane Austen's life is concerned. While the author is extremely passionate about her love for Miss Jane, she sometimes loses herself in picking out every last detail and scrutinizing it, often leaving me wondering why Jane Austen needed to be studied so well in such a book. To me, it almost took away Austen's romantic air.If you are a Jane Austen fan, please do read this. I am in no way saying this is not a book on Jane Austen to be read or admired, I merely believe there must be other books out there that might satisfy my curiosity a little more.

  • P.
    2019-05-09 19:18

    I did not like this book, which at first just appalled me. I seriously regretted the decision to read an Austen bio. Then I realized what appalled me was Shields as she reverse-engineered Austen into a 20th century being that I began to feel was just like herself. As she channels not only Austen but everyone in her life, the book is full of 'must have felts' and worse. Occasionally she tells you what an entire room of people were feeling.I read it because at 185pgs it was short, although it felt really long, and because I have another bio [please let it be better:] and thought the comparison would be useful.One interesting entry in the book is what seems to be Austen's first critical review of S&S from the Morning Chronicle:'the incidents are probable, and highly pleasing. and interesting; the conclusion such as the reader must wish it should be, and the whole is just long enough to interest without fatiguing'Really, what writer could ask for more!

  • rr
    2019-05-19 22:16

    One gets what one chooses, at least sometimes. I wanted to read a biography of Jane Austen, but I didn't think I could commit to a longer, scholarly biography this summer, so I read Carol Shield's volume instead. It was conversational and breezy, and it kept me company this week at meal-times, like a lively friend. The shape, size, and feel of the book combined to provide a friendly tactile pleasure, as well. But there's a "probably" or "must have" on almost every page, and I often couldn't tell on what basis Shields was drawing her conclusions: documentary evidence? her own sense of Jane Austen-ness? or her own experience of a writing life? (And for the record: I disagree with Shields' general assessment of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park!)

  • Kimberly
    2019-05-06 17:58

    What a great biography! The Jane Austen of popular imagination is quite proper and dainty. Some of that is likely speculation and wishful thinking. The author of this biography, in my opinion, honored her subject incredibly by fleshing her out in all of her complexities and eccentricities within the context of her society and time, just as well as the subject so fully drew her characters. It was a beautiful piece of investigative journalism cutting fact from fiction surrounding the subject's life. If you're going to read a biography on this great authoress, pick this one!

  • Mary
    2019-05-16 22:54

    This really wasn't a biography. It was an examination of the work of Jane Austen and how the few things that are actually known about her life might relate to that work. It was however, a very enlightening look at the work of a great novelist and the time in which she lived. Shields, an excellent novelist herself, also discusses, at some length, the creative process of the writer. Ultimately there is more speculation here than solid information, but the speculation seems grounded in research and this is a book worth reading.

  • Brianne
    2019-04-26 22:21

    This was my first Austen biography and I really enjoyed it! I really liked that Shields presented a realistic picture of Austen (it wasn't all gushing/positive points only) even if I want to believe that Austen was just perfect. ;)I liked Shields' writing style so much that I've got another book of hers to read. I'd definitely recommend it!

  • Teresa
    2019-05-12 22:12

    A clear-eyed, though affectionate, look at the life of Jane Austen from one of my favorite writers. Shields' words reminded me of how much Shields herself is missed; her theorizing that Austen died from breast cancer is poignant.

  • Kirk
    2019-05-19 17:11

    1st read May 2010?Reread 8/3/2015

  • Darcey
    2019-05-02 00:12

    Really enjoyed this. Though the prose was occasionally a bit heavy-handed, overall I found Shields' take on Jane Austen's life and works highly readable and wonderfully insightful.

  • Pamela
    2019-05-05 19:12

    Easy to read, it intertwines an analysis of the novels and of what is known about Jane Austen's life. It certainly makes you want to re-read the novels.

  • Jenni Joru
    2019-05-15 00:18

    Miellyttävästi kirjoitettu pieni elämäkerta Jane Austenista. Austenistahan ei jäänyt juuri dokumentteja ja Cassandra-sisko sensuroi kirjeenvaihdon pitääkseen siskon ja suvun mainetta yllä.

  • Isabelle
    2019-05-14 20:58

    This is the year which I will be reading all of Jane Austen in chronological order so it's fitting that before undertaking that task I found out more about Austen who created these stories which have touched thousands through the ages.The story of Jane Austen herself is actually quite a sad one; she lived in a time when women had no freedom to sustain themselves outside of a good marriage; a theme she systematically addresses in her novels. When you read about Austen you can understand how she is constantly criticizing that same culture that she is trapped by and the only way to make amends to her own sad story is to keep giving her heroines a happy ending. Carol Shields paints a picture of Austen that is different than what you have imagined, especially if you've enjoyed the fictionalized accounts of her life such as Becoming Jane played by the pretty Ann Hathaway. It is jarring to consider that the real Austen was not attractive and despite longing for a marriage partner that would suit her lively intelligence she resigned herself to be an "old maid" with little to no money and more importantly no prospects.Shields showcases how a lot of what happened to her in her life manifested itself in ideas in her fiction books; she showed how all of Austen's men are intelligent book readers who can engage the heroine in meaningful conversations and how none of them care that their heroines have no fortune of their own (the exception is Emma). By listing these comparisons we can ascertain that Austen penned her inner desire but it would be wrong of us to simply consider her a Stephanie Meyer sort of writer. Austen is extremely critical of her society and she shows her true strength when she wittily satirizes everyday occurrences. Overall, I absolutely loved the biography. I feel like I got to know Jane for what her life was really like, it humanized her. At times she was snappy and bitter, other times she was irritated, lonely, imaginative and young and optimistic. It showed a well rounded individual and I think that is this biography's greatest strength. 

  • Scott Wilder
    2019-05-06 23:05

    "If she were alive today, she might question our own attitudes toward using the body as a kind of software of literature. For all the body's powers and vulnerability, her novels demonstrate that for her, the real dance of life lies in language and in understanding." - Carol Shields on Jane Austen's legacyWith wit, erudition, and a self-acknowledged inability to escape the planet-sized pull of Jane Austen's inimitable writing style, Ms. Shields accomplishes the most important task of a literary biography: it makes me want to read and re-read Ms. Austen's cherished classics, with the light of new understanding.A writer myself--though one just wise enough to avoid any metaphorical comparisons to the biographer or her subject--I will forever be indebted to Ms. Shields for her astute observation regarding the 'silent middle years' of Ms. Austen's life, a hard and barren span, almost 10 years in Bath, where the author's familiar routines were disrupted, withering the fallow creative earth until Ms. Austen's brother was able to return the stricken author to a regular routine at Chawton. A writer herself, Ms. Shields wisely advises fellow creatives to take note of the cause and cure for this creative block. Advice I dearly needed to heed after four upheaving moves in two years.