Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Quirk Books (5 May 2011)
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 PartyFull 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.
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Having been given this handbook very kindly by the amazing people over at Quirk books, I was eager to get into what would seem to be a different read to what I usually like. While YA novels and teen fiction are my forte, I helplessly found myself being entranced by this book that had me laughing throughout, to my own surprise. If you thought this would bore you to death and ramble on about the Regency English period, than you’re wrong; it puts a whole new twist on the context of the original Jane Austen novels with surprising bits and bobs of additional features that will make even the wariest readers smile. Having said that, this handbook would probably be more better suited in the hands of teen, or young adult to even older females – sorry boys, not your cup of tea.
The book has been simply broken up into four main sections, and under each one, the author discusses, places points of view and funny anecdotes about different topics such as “How to become an accomplished lady,” or “how to plan a dinner party” as well as other bits such as “how a lady might earn a living.' Sullivan raises these topics in a light hearted manner, bonding with the female audience and then gives the readers answers as if we are that are filled with witty humour. Accompanying a good laugh, are beautiful illustrations to add to the grandeur of the handbook, and makes it a much more interesting read and I enjoyed looking at the illustrations; pouring over the detail Sullivan has placed.
This handbook also includes a short biography on Jane Austen as well as a compilation of all her novels as well as (and I found this useful) the many film adaptations as of the novel – which would ensure that readers knew the different re-telling of the famous text.
The author, in a light-footed but logical manner, takes us through the private and social lives of that well-mannered and quite privileged class of beings that usually inhabit Austen's novels, in turn giving readers an insight into the lives of those from that time period – without boring us with the fancy footwork involved. Little reminders which I personally found engaging were like those of what to wear in what circumstances, how to be appropriately entertaining at a dance without being misapprehended, or how to treat your elders and betters.
I laughed and smiled my way through this, and actually enjoyed the handbook which made a delightful companion and will do to any others out there who enjoy contemporary classics or even just a good laugh. However, the pitfall being that the only audience it can attract would be females – excluding the males almost completely. However, given the content of the handbook and the connection female readers will feel, maybe it’s better suited for us girls, leaving the men to their usual sports magazines ;)