My Winter Reading Book Reviews
I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas time! I hope the holiday season brings you lots of wonderful family moments, delicious treats, and most of all, some great books in your stockings!
Speaking of books, (well, this IS a website about books!) I realized recently that I am in danger of breaking a promise, a promise I made about 6 months ago! Remember my blog My Winter Reading List? Well, winter has come and gone in Queensland Australia, and I promised a review of the titles I had ordered. These were The Jane Austen Diet; Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters; and Jan Ellen Delman’s Love’s Perjuries. So without more ado, let’s do this!
The Jane Austen Diet: Austen's Secrets to Food, Health, and Incandescent Happiness, by Brian Kozlowski.
What a fascinating book. Kozlowski uses sources ranging from Austen’s letters, her works, and general Regency life, to take a closer look at how the Georgians ate, slept and exercised, and what, if any, science is behind the cultures of that time around lifestyle and food.
I’m going to address the elephant (or cow??) in the room here and jump straight into what some critics of his book found to be the most controversial part of his findings: Yes folks, the Georgians ate meat, and enjoyed good health as well, so get over it and move on! Meat was considered essential for good health and while eaten in moderation, it was fresh, unprocessed, and was the main dish on the table.
I found it amusing that other reviews of this book were sometimes quite scathing of Kozlowski’s findings. It seems some readers took exception to this finding, and couldn’t help but display an unwillingness to accept that perhaps the extreme, religious veganism of the twenty first century which seems to have been almost forced upon us in the west, may not be the only way to enjoy stable, robust health. What critics missed, perhaps deliberately, was that Kozlowski also found that Austen and her contemporaries were all for moderation in everything, including sugar, meat and exercise.
The book also talks about different foods available, mealtimes, quantities of food taken, timing of food, exercise in the Georgian period, and drinking (Jane herself was no teetotaller!)
Mental and emotional health as related to what foods they partook of is also looked at, and overall the book brings to our sometimes extreme views an admonition from Austen and her contemporaries, that moderation is the key to good mental, emotional and physical health.
Kozlowski brings in lots of ‘modern’ scientific morsels which back up the wisdom found in the Regency lifestyle as presented by Miss Austen, and although the writer almost borders on being a tad preachy at times, this quality was very infrequent and I would not say it was intrusive. He did well to balance the ‘sciency’ aspects with the literary aspects, and the quotes were really quite fun.
Overall a well-researched and interesting look at the Regency table and lifestyle, from which the reader may take morsels of knowledge which they might then incorporate into their own lives, as they see fit. Strongly recommended for its clear, accessible style and fun presentation of fascinating details of the Georgian lifestyle. Nine out of Ten.
Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters by William Austen-Leigh
It is always fascinating to peer behind the curtain and observe how others live, and to be able to have access to Jane Austen’s private letters to her family and friends is no exception. This book, compiled and supplemented with commentary from her brother William Austen-Leigh, is a really fascinating and detailed look at Austen’s life as seen through her letters. Her voice, so unique, really comes through just as clearly as if she was speaking to us directly, her acerbic wit and sarcasm are combined with her very humble attitude to life, and her love for her family and friends. I learned so much about Austen reading this book, and it was a pleasure from beginning to end.
Having said that, I think you would have to be a Janeophile to enjoy it, or very interested in Regency life, as some parts of the book might read very slowly with an attention to detail which might deter anyone but the most avid Austen fans. My rating: Eight out of ten.
Lovers' Perjuries by Joan Ellen Delman
Oh, what a delight to read this gem! Delman’s Austenian style just shines, and her talent is amazing. The style of writing was my most favorite thing about this novel; she truly captures Regency idiom, spoken English and written. It could have been Jane writing her own sequel. I always look for authenticity, and strive to create it in my own novels, so I am in awe of Delman’s ability to do this. The story, that of the love affair between Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill, which is merely implied in Emma, is given thorough justice to, and nothing is left wanting in the way of a satisfying experience. The characters are given much loving attention, so that they blend seamlessly with Austen’s, and are the very same we came to know in Emma. The story is faithful in its detail to Emma, and it blends, again seamlessly, with the narrative given us by Austen in Emma. Everything is in place, nothing is wanting, to enjoy a transition from one writer to another, telling the same story but through different eyes. Ten out of ten to Delman.
So there you have it, three great books you might like to order for yourselves, as a new year treat, or pop onto your wish list for your next birthday maybe! Enjoy, and catch you all again soon!