Wednesday, 26 June 2013

FACTUAL REVIEW: Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England - Roy and Lesley Adkins

Release Date: 06/06/13
Publisher:  Little Brown


Jane Austen, arguably the greatest novelist of the English language, lived from 1775 to 1817. Her fiction focuses on the gentry and aristocracy, and her heroines are young women looking for love. Yet the comfortable, tranquil country that she brilliantly devised is a complete contrast to the England in which she actually lived. For twenty-nine of Jane Austen's forty-one years, the country was embroiled in war. Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England explores the real England of that time. Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly portray fascinating aspects of the daily lives of ordinary people, from forced marriages and the sale of wives in marketplaces to boys and girls working down mines or as chimney sweeps, this book eavesdrops on the daily chore of fetching water, the horror of ghosts and witches, Saint Monday, bull baiting, sedan chairs, highwaymen, the stench of corpses swinging on roadside gibbets and the horrors of surgery without anaesthetics. Giving a voice to these forgotten people and revealing how they worked, played and struggled to survive, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England is an authoritative and gripping account that is sometimes humorous, often shocking, but always entertaining.


Whilst a lot of people have a romanticised view of this time period, it is often overlooked that during Jane Austin’s life we only had 12 years of peace. Yet for many, her work remains the favoured view of the time and to be honest to have an overall look at the time through experts was not only refreshing but also a great way to explore the reality behind the rose tinted version that we all know to some degree or another.

What Roy and Lesley bring to the fore is a book that has not only solid research but also one that takes the reader by the hand bringing the events of the day to the fore in such a way that its not only friendly but also something that is informative without being an infodump. The prose is strong, the overall piece a joy to sit down with and to be honest whilst I was intrigued I was surprised at how much I was drawn into their work. All round a good piece of research. Great stuff.

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