I have never read a Jane Austen book. I love to read, and I’m sure I would enjoy her novels, but I have just never gotten around to it – though she is one of my wife’s favorite authors.
So when I had the chance to read a short biography of her, I jumped at the chance. I saw it as a way to “prime the pump,” as it were. This book by Peter Leithart, in the Christian Encounters series from Thomas Nelson, did not disappoint. Though Austen did not live an outwardly eventful life, Leithart does a good job of mining her correspondence and the reminiscences of friends and family members to paint a picture of a woman who had a gift for observation and storytelling, a strong sense of humor with a satirical bent, and a sincere (though reserved) Anglican faith. I especially appreciated Leithart’s pointing out that Austen intended for her works to be instructive without being overtly moralistic. Throughout the book, and especially in the first chapter, the reader can get bogged down trying to keep straight the names of many of Austen’s relations and friends. However, the publisher has taken pity on the hapless reader by including an appendix of names in the back.
In all, this book made me more interested in reading Austen, so that I can more fully understand the fascination that she has exerted over readers for two centuries.
(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy.)