Tomalin, Claire. Jane Austen: A Life.
This biography had a wealth of information about Jane Austen and her family. Although so many of Jane's letters were destroyed by her sister Cassandra and her niece Fanny, Tomalin still manages to piece together a vivid perspective of the author's life and the influence of family and friends.
Tomalin does occasionally make assumptions that bother me a bit; I don't mind assumptions too much if there are qualifiers, but I'm uneasy with assumptions easily made and stated as fact without said qualifiers because such varied opinions can result from our personal readings of a situation.
Nevertheless, the factual information was interesting and detailed. I was unaware that Jane was sent to a boarding school where she suffered from a serious illness, that she had such interesting relations in her Aunt Philadelphia and her cousin Eliza (both women had unusual independence of mind and style), and that there was a ten year gap in her writing as a result of the move from Steventon to Bath.
It is a shame that we have so little in her own words about her life and thoughts, but this biography gives a great deal of information about some of the major events in the lives of the larger Austen family. It was not the easiest period to be an unmarried female, but in spite of her quiet life, Jane made an singular and significant mark on the age with her novels. Tomalin's biography allows us to view Jane in the midst of her family and her era.
Another review of Tomalin's biography: Of Books & Bicycles
Another biography of Jane Austen by Carol Shields reviewed by Nicole.
Nonfiction. Biography. 1998. 228 pages + Appendices, Notes, Bibliography.