Monday, December 19, 2016

Reads for Writers: A Jane Austen Christmas by Carlo DeVito

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          If you love Jane Austen’s novels, you will love A Jane Austen Christmas: Celebrating the Season of Romance, Ribbons, and Mistletoe by Carlo DeVito. In the six Christmases described in this book, readers learn about Jane’s early writings, her first love, and Austen family traditions.

Literary Background:

          “Reading aloud in the family circle—fiction and non-fiction—was a favorite amusement of the time and practiced regularly by the Austens,”…Reverend Austen had a rich library filled with books of all kinds. From the time that Jane and Cassy [Jane’s sister] could read well enough, their father’s library was open to them with little editing. (page 34)

          It was with this generosity of spirit and a love for his youngest daughter that George Austen indulged Jane in her passion. He and she shared a love of books, but Reverend Austen was much taken with his daughter’s desire to write. He intended to encourage it. (page 51)

          “For her nineteenth birthday [December 16th], Mr. Austen bought Jane ‘a small mahogany writing desk with 1 long drawer and glass ink stand compleat’ which he purchased…for 12 [shillings],”. (page 51)…This desk was to have immense importance in her life, and it marked a significant shift in her writing and attitude. Jane would begin many of her great works writing on this very desk. (page 53)

Christmas Happenings:

          Christmastide of 1795 was a highlight for the twenty-year-old Jane Austen not only because it heralded the start of the ball season, but because it was the meeting of the first great love of her life. (page 67)

          The highlight of the Christmastide season for adults, especially young adults, was a series of dances and balls…(page 69)

          “Modern readers are sometimes puzzled as to why dance scenes have so prominent a place in Jane Austen’s novels; but in her lifetime the dance floor was the best, and indeed the only place, where marriage partners could be identified and courtship could flourish,”…(page 70)

          Jane was an enthusiastic participant. One December she wrote to Cassandra that she had danced twenty dances “without any fatigue—I was glad to find myself capable of being able to dance so much & with so much satisfaction as I did…” (page 73)

          In the Christmastide of 1795, Tom Lefroy went to the country to spend the holiday with his aunt, Madame Lefroy. During the course of that season, and during four balls given in that time, a romance took place that would mark Austen’s writings for the rest of her life. And Lefroy himself would become a character who would be recycled and reinvented several times over. (page 80) [All the heartbreaking details follow on pp. 81-89.]

          The text is rounded out with many details about entertaining throughout the Christmas season, recipes, and mores of the time. Jane’s letters as well as paintings and illustrations of various people in her life are blended in to give this book depth—a great gift for any fan of Jane Austen.

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