Only A Novel (The Double Life of Jane Austin) by Jane Aiken Hodge
Today I am sharing a book review of Only a Novel by Jane Aiken Hodge. It is a really interesting account of the life of the wonderful author Jane Austen.
An intimate portrait of the two sides of the inimitable Jane Austen: the private life of a decorous and genteel young woman dedicated to family life; and the extraordinary life of an enigmatic author who shied away from the spotlight but illuminated, with her acerbic wit and observation, women’s lives ruled by English manners.
Weaving in both historical records and family letters, Aiken Hodge’s endearing and affectionate biography of the esteemed author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion aims to unite these two worlds and finally answers the question: who, exactly, was Jane Austen?
I found this account of Jane Austen’s life really enjoyable. I had been looking around for a biography of the author but I wanted to discover a more personal side too. Jane Aiken Hodge uses family letters to do this. However, many had been destroyed by Jane’s sister Cassandra who wanted to protect the family’s privacy. Consequently, the only surviving letters were ones that Cassandra deemed too mundane to be of interest. This means that there are large gaps in what we know of Jane Austen’s life.
It was interesting to read about young women in the late 1700s and early 1800s whose ‘only future was matrimony’ and academic education was considered unimportant. The women did, however, need to be accomplished in singing, dancing, music, handwriting and ‘listening to the gentlemen talk’
I do feel that someone with a good understanding of Jane Austen’s novels would enjoy this biography the most. It has a few references to the books which may be confusing if you are not familiar with Jane Austen’s characters and locations. For devoted Jane Austen fans, it is a highly informative and enjoyable read.
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book, which I have reviewed honestly.
Thank you for reading.