Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin
Claire Tomalin offers an intuitive interpretation of the life and works of Jane Austen in this superb biography. Looking far beyond the surface, and admitting the difficult task of examining a life on the slender basis of a few novels and a small collection of remaining letters and reminisces of friends and family members, this book manages to present a portrait of a witty author whose biting wit covered a wounded heart, and whose struggles with depression gave her comedic writings a melancholy undertone. Given the limited materials available, this biography does an excellent job examining Jane Austen’s work in the context of her family and society, and how she carefully choose what to represent in her novels from her own personal background. The result is an insightful examination of a life that her own family members considered uneventful and unimportant, providing a tentative answer to the puzzle of why this spinster became one of the best novelists of all time.