Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World
By Claire Harman
Henry Holt & Co., 2010. Biography
Jane Austen. Her name is familiar to almost everyone, but she still remains a figure we know little about. Most of her personal correspondence was destroyed within years of her death and what little remains provides a patchy portrait at best. This new biography covers more than just her life but the decades of fame she has enjoyed since her death. The author presents the popularity and almost universal enjoyment of her six novels as an unprecedented phenomenon. Austen’s books have provided material for plays, movies, prequels, and sequels and has inspired works on etiquette, dating, fashion, and more. Harman presents a host of interesting insights into Austen’s contributions to our literary heritage and popular culture over the past 150 years.
This is a must read for all Janeites. (Which is pretty much everyone, right?) Harman is an obvious fan herself and quickly draws the readers into the subject matter with warmth and humor. She includes quotes and characters from Austen’s books that enrich her narrative and make the reader feel a part of the “in” group, even including a section on Colin Firth’s wet shirt. Entirely entertaining and enlightening. After putting this book down, you will either want to pick up your worn copy of Pride and Prejudice or maybe just pop in the DVD.