Margaret C. Sullivan
For “Janeites” avoiding Austen Anonymous intervention, 17 bucks for this clever piece from Quirk Books couldn’t be better spent.
Charmingly designed, the pale-blue guide is thick, its text attractively interspersed with quotations and drawings. Whirling through daily and social life of Jane Austen’s Regency England, the how-to offers advice on proper behavior for readers tapping their inner Elizabeth Bennet or Elinor Dashwood.
From “making love” (not what it means today, you dirty-minded!) to declining unwanted proposals, marrying off your daughters and surviving medical attention, Sullivan delivers. She even includes such pertinent instructions as how to make a filigree basket, and how to fit a long letter onto one sheet of paper (just don’t send such a thing to your boyfriend or girlfriend “ scandalous!).
A bibliography of film adaptations encourages fans to keep feeding their fancy, and a brief Austen bio and intriguing interspersed tidbits about her tease the reader to find out more. (Ahem: Austen probably went commando.)
While you’re chewing on that, sure, this how-to might be unnecessary, even silly, but it charms, anyway, as it cheerfully explains middle- and upper-crust life in Austen’s works, pretension-free. Dull history books, take that.