Thursday, 2 June 2011

Book Review: The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

Title: The Jane Austen Handbook
Author: Margaret C. Sullivan
Number of pages: 224 pages 
Publisher: Quirk Publishing
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Release Date: 28 March 2011
Source: review copy received from publisher for honest review
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle store, Book Depository

Grade: 4.5 stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads appetizer: Long before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk published this guide to life in Regency England to the delight of Austen fans everywhere. Newly published with a revised cover, The Jane Austen Handbook offers step-by-step instructions for proper comportment in the early 19th century. Readers will discover:

• How to Indicate Interest in a Gentleman Without Seeming Forward
• How to Ensure a Good Yearly Income
• How to Ride Sidesaddle
• How to Behave at a Dinner Party

Full of practical directions for navigating the travails of Regency life, this charming illustrated book also serves as a companion for present-day readers, explaining the English class system, currency, dress, and the nuances of graceful living.

This review was originally posted at The Book Lovers Inc.

My Thoughts: I'm a passionate Jane Austen fan: love her novels, love the film adaptations and of course the time period, so when I heard about this book I jumped on the chance to read it!

The first impression of this book won me over, even before I started reading it: The Jane Austen Handbook is such an adorable little hardcover book! You open it and are blown away by the beautiful font and the cute illustrations, look:

I would say that The Jane Austen Handbook has two sides: you will find plenty of interesting and informative tidbits about Regency traditions and explanations of how things were done back then, then on the other hand there are also some funny winks to Jane Austen's novels and characters. Let me show you some examples:

By reading The Jane Austen Handbook I learned:

- what is the difference between a gig (open carriage drawn by one horse) and a curricle (drawn by two horses);

- the difference between a physician (gentlemen edicated at universities who usually did not touch the patients), a surgeon (usually had no university degree and gained knowledge by dissecting corpses, they helped with healing by setting bones, performing amputations, etc.) and an apothecary (dispensed drugs prescribed by the physician, in country villages he was often the only local source of medical advice);

- the daily schedule of a Regency lady: I was always wondering when they woke up (ladies usually rose at 7am), when they paid their morning calls (between 11 am and 3 pm) and at what time did the day end (they retired around 11:30 pm);

- that it was common for a visit to friends to last up to 6 weeks, and if someone visited particularly good friends or family, staying for 2-3 months wasn't unheard of either!

- through detailed and illustrated presentation, the different garments of a lady's and gentleman's clothing as well as the fashionable hairstyles back then.

Then those who are familiar with Jane Austen works will recognize the characters and events of her novels in some of the tips given by the author:

- suggestions on where to go on a travel (Lake/Peak District - remember Lizzie's trip with the Gardiners to Derbyshire in Pride and Prejudice?, Bath - that's where Anne and her family went in Persuasion, visit some friends - like Catherine's visit to Northanger Abbey or Lizzie's visit to Charlotte)

- tips on how to marry off your daughter: "threaten never to speak to her again if she refuses the gentleman" (anyone recognizes Mrs. Bennet famous lines when Lizzie refused Mr. Collins' marriage proposal? :-p)

- estate improvement tips: add some ruins to your estate where you could stroll and partake in quiet conversation (remember that scene between Lizzie and Lady Catherine around the end of Pride and Prejudice?)

- how to get the attention of a gentleman (these were mostly tailored from Caroline Bingley's behaviour towards Mr. Darcy): compliment the gentleman (and his handwriting ;-p), offer to sharpen their quill, read the same books he does, compliment his estate, etc.

Verdict: This cute and compact little handbook is a very entertaining and informative book, I enjoyed all the little snippets of Regency information as well as all the winks to Jane Austen novels. All Jane Austen fans should check out The Jane Austen Handbook, you'll love it!!

Buy it:
The BookDepository

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