When a representative from Cider Mill Press approached me a few months ago asking if I'd like to host a review and book giveaway for a new Jane Austen book, my heart skipped a beat! Knowing that many of you share my love for Jane Austen, I didn't hesitate to send an affirmative response. I received my own copy of the book a little while back, and without further ado, will share my observations with you! If you'd like your own copy, have a try at the giveaway (below), or find it at Amazon here!
A Jane Austen Christmas:
Celebrating the Season of Romance,
Ribbons, & Mistletoe
by Carlo DeVito
First off -- not to judge a book by its cover -- but this is a lovely little book! Bound attractively in red and green (you can see it peeking out in the photo), and jacketed festively, it's a well made book that's the perfect size for reading.
It's difficult to classify this book. It includes a bit of biography, a bit of historical info, and even recipes (mostly for festive holiday beverages, some of which are from the Austens themselves). Mr. DeVito tracks the Austens through the years, writing primarily about their Christmas-time activities. Each chapter/part focuses on a different year, starting in 1786.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was the connections between Jane Austen's experiences and the people she knew, and specific passages in her books. The infamous play from Mansfield Park? Jane had a similar experience when her own brothers vied for a young woman's attention during their own theatrics. Mr. Collins shows up, too, and Jane's unfortunate early romance with Tom Lefroy is detailed, as well as her exceedingly brief engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither.
DeVito draws from a variety of sources -- historical accounts, Austen family letters, etc. -- to paint a portrait of Christmas festivities in the Georgian and Regency eras. The bibliography is quite hefty for such a small tome. Including so many sources can result in a very choppy, cobbled narrative, but Mr. DeVito handled it quite well and the result is an easy read. Since I personally know very little about Christmas celebrations from that era of history, I found it quite informative! I also appreciated that he "suggested" how the Austens might have done things based on the traditions of the times, since we don't have exact accounts of all of their holiday activities.
As I mentioned, the book includes several recipes of the time period (mostly for alcoholic beverages, which is a bit of a specialty for the author), and gives some insight into how the Austens ran their kitchen -- Jane and Cassandra were actually quite involved, owing to their family's constrained finances. A Jane Austen Christmas certainly gave me a better sense of the time in which Jane Austen lived, especially the societal climate that influenced her books.
My only caveats with this book are relatively minor -- first, that a handful of grammatical errors were overlooked. None were very glaring, but it does make me wince to see such errors in print! The second, is that there are a few brief thematic elements that make the book suitable for slightly older audiences. There is nothing "very shocking," but I don't think I would have given this to myself at 12 (which is when I first started reading Jane Austen). Then again, I would most certainly be considered a prude by modern standards, so don't think that there is anything racy!
I felt that the book painted a pleasing vignette of Jane Austen's life, detailing some of the experiences that most shaped her development as an author. This is really the perfect book for a chilly afternoon by the fire, with a steaming cup of tea at one's elbow.
And now, for the giveaway! Cider Mill Press has generously offered to give a copy of A Jane Austen Christmas to a "Thoughts and Thimbles" reader! Let's keep this simple, shall we? No liking, no following -- just leave a comment with your favorite Jane Austen novel, and enter the giveaway by clicking below!
The giveaway is open only to residents of the United States and Canada
The giveaway is now closed! Congratulations Hannah H!
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All opinions expressed in this review are my own -- I did receive a complimentary copy of A Jane Austen Christmas for the purpose of this review. Consider yourself informed! *wink*