It seems that the Jane Austen boom that began a few years ago has not yet run its course: its latest manifestation is an absorbing new biography by the British biographer Claire Tomalin. A mere three hundred pages, written with spare elegance and grace, Jane Austen: A Life is a welcome throwback to a time when biographers did not feel it necessary to stuff their tomes with every dull and unnecessary detail of their subjects’ lives. Tomalin, who has also written books on Mary Wollstonecraft; Katherine Mansfield; Dickens’s mistress Nelly Ternan; and Dora Jordan, the nineteenth- century actress who lived with the future William IV and bore him ten children, displays a novelist’s instinct for significant detail and a knack for compelling narrative. She makes fascinating reading of Austen’s forty-one uneventful years and brings real substance to the shadowy figure who left behind no diary, no clear portrait,...

 
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