Loads of Learned Lumber

Monday, August 27, 2012

Claire Tomalin, _Jane Austen: A LIfe_

I HAD ATTEMPTED an Austen biography or two before this, but had found myself bogged down in chronicles of the cousinage or minute accounts of life in Hampshire circa 1780.  Doesn't Austen, of all people, deserve an intelligent, shapely biography capable of nuanced distinction between what we care about and what we do not?  Turns out there is one--Tomalin's.  Tomalin knows everything a biographer needs to know about the cousins and about Hampshire, but knows how to get through it swiftly, amusingly, and illuminatingly. She has a novelist's instinct for character. She is conscientious about signaling what we can know and what we can only guess.  Above all, she gives Austen's intelligence and achievement their full due.

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