The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen

The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen
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Review

Historian Amanda Vickery and a cheerful female gynaecologist collapse into giggles as they talk about the gynaecologist’s “Team Willoughby” badge. The lady is chairman of an annual Jane Austen fans’ convention in Texas, which is packed to the rafters with devotees dressed in bonnets (“Aw, we love Jane Orstin”). Andrew Davies, adapter of tales, is the star speaker and Vickery is delighted by the “warmth of the community” of scholars and readers.

In a fun, diverting hour, Vickery reassesses Jane Austen and her place in the world. She attends an auction where an incomplete Austen novel of a mere 60 pages is bought for an estimate-busting £850,000 by the Bodleian Library, and later does her best to explode the myth that Jane Austen was a mousey woman who hid behind anonymity. The Many Lovers of Miss Jane Austen is a paean, too, to the transformative joy of reading books, and for that alone, it, and Vickery, deserve mince pies.

Summary

To mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's first novel, Sense and Sensibility, Amanda Vickery explores the writer's fluctuating popularity and the hold her fiction has on readers today. She talks to literary scholars, film directors and costumed devotees at Austen conventions to consider why the plots and characters continue to delight, amuse, console and provoke, argues that different generations see their own reflections in the stories, and watches a rare, handwritten manuscript of an unfinished Austen novel go under the hammer at Sotheby's. Featuring contributions by Andrew Davies, Charles Spencer and Howard Jacobson.
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