Jane And Her Gentlemen: Jane Austen And The Men In Her Life And Novels, by Audrey Hawkridge
As an open and avowed fan of Jane Austen’s work, this is the sort of book that a fan of hers who wishes to examine the view of Jane Austen towards men and marriage from her own biographical details (such as they are known) and her works would appreciate. The author shows considerable nuance and skill in admitting the rather crowded field of works on Jane Austen (there are many) and in the difficulty of writing something new about Jane Austen and her novels, and the limited scope and focus of this work and its ease as a read (as well as the elegance of its research and the humor of some of its biting comments) ought to give nearly universal pleasure to readers of this book. After all, it is likely to be of interest mainly to those who are fans of Jane Austen.
The work as a whole is organized well and flows nicely, in eleven relatively short chapters that start with a look at the geography of Jane Austen’s life, her conflicting characteristics based on her own writings and the reminisces of others, three chapters on the men of her life in Hampshire and Kent, her brother Henry, and her brothers Frank and Charles (the Admirals). The author also looks at the gentlemen observed in her own life as well as those cameo figures and anti-heroes in her novels. The author then closes with chapters on the husbands of Austen’s heroines, the author’s (and heroine’s) search for love, and Austen’s own unsuccessful experience in romance, something that draws a great deal of sympathy with me, given my own experiences.
As a whole, while this work is definitely the work of an Austen partisan with a sense of fiery wit that is not exactly academic but is certainly honest and heartfelt, it is a work that ought to please those looking for a light but informative and reflective piece on Austen’s life and work, on her love of romance, her gentleness and restraint (rare qualities in today’s writings), and in her refreshing honesty as well. For those who appreciate such qualities in Jane Austen’s work, the same qualities will likely to be appreciated in a work that is about Jane Austen’s life and writing by someone who has spent a great deal of time engaged in Austen studies. As for me, I found the work to be greatly appreciated as well given my own interests in Jane Austen and in the struggle for success at romantic life, and think this work ought to find a wide audience of pleased readers.