"Can he be a sensible man, sir?" "No, my dear; I think not..." Thus Christopher Brooke prefaces his study of Jane Austen, whose sharp intelligence and wit have been the companions of his leisure for many years. In answer to the question as to whether there can be anything left to be said, Brooke returns rewardingly to her own writing, the novels and the letters, and with a historian's precision reveals new detail and fresh insights. What is the world Jane Austen describes, and how is it related to the world in which she lived? A close reading of each of the major novels leads into a detailed examination of a sheaf of themes - church and clergy, rank and status, marriage - to see how they are handled in their social and historical setting, what is revealed about Jane Austen's deepest convictions, and how these might be validly deduced from the text of her novels. The wisdom and insight he has brought to historical research are now rewardingly brought to bear on a novelist of endless fascination. The late CHRISTOPHER BROOKE enjoyed a wide reputation as a historian, primarily of the medieval church and other institutions (he is the author of The Medieval Idea of Marriage), and of the 18th-century church portrayed so frequently, and so variously, in Jane Austen's novels.
Chiefly a celebration - and why not? - of Austen's wit, this will be most welcome to those who come fresh to this great English novelists (Austen lovers will not really want the long synopses of her novels). The author's love and veneration for his subject shine appealingly through chapters on the church and clergy, rank and status, marriage and morals in his heroine's books. Lord David Cecil re-written for another generation; and very welcome too. (Kirkus UK)