Friday, 12 February 2016

                  Hibernating Pen Pals

I have noticed I'm not the only one who hasn't been a diligent blogger. It seems that a lot of the blogs I've looked at in the past week have posts about getting back into the swing of correspondence. It's almost like the spring thaw when the hibernating animals come out of their sleepy dens and get back to business; all us letter writers start to break out of the winter doldrums and find pleasure in putting pen to paper again.  Over the holidays things get so frantic and rushed, that I don't have the leisure time to sit and compose for my blog and it just keeps getting put off.  My mind is usually full of things to do and deadlines to meet during the festive period so it's nice to have those quiet moments again to focus on something I love.

I have some difficulties with my hands and the cold doesn't help so I've been reading more than I've been writing the past few months. It is easier to grab a moment to read and enjoy something rather than getting continually interrupted whilst trying to write.  I find it so frustrating and lose my train of thought and my correspondence suffers for it.  But reading is something I can enjoy in little bits so I tend to embrace that pleasure for a while. Being a self-confessed Janeite I have been reading about her life and the Regency Era which both fascinate me. Some of the books I have on my bedside table are The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford, Jane Austen's World by Maggie Lane, A Portrait of Jane Austen by David Cecil and Jane Austen's Letters collected and edited by R. W. Chapman.

All are vastly interesting books. The first is a work of fiction which interweaves bits of Jane Austen's real life gleaned from her letters that perhaps show intent for her untimely demise. It was the bits of her life I was more interested in, however, and not a plot for murder. The author does put forth a very interesting case that Jane may have been poisoned. I had heard an interview on the radio with Lindsay Ashford and and I was curious about it so I wanted to get a copy to read. I lucked out and saw it on a shelf in a charity shop and snapped it right up. I thought it was a good book, and though I'm not convinced Jane was "done in," it was compelling to read an account that centered around her daily life.

The other books I'm reading are non-fiction and give a great deal of background into Jane Austen's personal life, her family and her writing, which I find especially interesting. A Portrait of Jane Austen by David Cecil is very well written and cautions readers not to view Miss Austen's life with 21st century eyes but to see her as she lived in the Regency Era so you can truly appreciate the happiness and hardship she faced. There are lovely paintings from the family scattered throughout and it is a good representation of Jane's life.

Jane Austen's World by Maggie Lane gives bite-sized chunks of the life of Miss Austen and her books. I particularly liked the pages devoted to letter writing. The “crossed letters” she wrote (that some of us have also exchanged in homage) were referred to as “chequer work” which I never knew.

I'm still reading bits of some of the books and wading through the letters. I have come to believe Jane Austen was a charming lady of great wit and incredible imagination with a bit of impishness for good measure and it's been a pleasure to get to know more about her and her world.


  1. I have not seen The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen. Intriguing! I must find a copy of it straight away! Thank you for the book reviews!

  2. The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen is a compelling read. You'll enjoy it. I've just found another book to do with our heroine called Jane Austen in Style by Susan Watkins which looks very interesting; describing the time period Jane lived.