FREE Book Giveaway: Jane Austen’s Journeys

JA journeys

Hazel Jones – author of Jane Austen and Marriage – has completed a breezy narrative on travel in the life and works of Jane Austen.

I’m offering a FREE copy of this book, Jane Austen’s Journeys.

  • read about Jane Austen’s Journeys @ the publisher Robert Hale’s official website
  • read about Jane Austen’s Journeys @ GoodReads
  • ASK any questions – and enter below by adding a “comment”. The giveaway will be open through the end of August (31 August 2015, U.S. eastern time). Please: U.S. mailing addresses only

published February 2015
272 pages
8 color plates
list price: $28.95

1 Sept 2015
Out of the pink pillowcase, the recipient of the book is:

Aubrey Leaman

BookWatch: January 2014

Being a member of BIO – Biographers International Organization, we are treated every month to The Biographyer’s Craft, a newsletter all about biography, books, writers.

When I spotted that many of my “wish list books” came from just one perusal of the newsletter, it dawned that to cull it each month might yield some “hey! I forgot all about that book” and induce a re-look or two. I’ll work to also post them in the New & Exciting page. I hope anyone with comments will feel free to participate!

Elsewhere I have mentioned that wartime chronicles also catch my eye from time to time (WWI and WWII, especially the British homefront; also Holocaust chronicles). And that is where this first in the list falls.

NB: these books haven’t been seen, but their subject-matter makes them sound of interest.

Nicholas Shakespeare, Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France (HarperCollins)

Catherine Hewitt, Valtesse de la Bigne: A Courtesan’s Conquest of Paris (sold to Icon Books)


And one non-BIO book I anticipate with great relish: Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen’s Country Life (Francis Lincoln; not due out until June, 2014)

OverREADERS Anonymous?

Perusing HOUZZ yesterday, this article’s very title compelled me to read it:

not my books!

The story of “Not my Precious Books!” begins with a conversation:

“Years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance, and she referred to a weekly meeting she attended without naming it. I asked her what it was.

‘Overreaders Anonymous,’ she said.

I froze. I had no idea there was such a 12-step group, but if anyone was an overreader, I knew I was. And then my auditory memory caught up with my fervid imagination, and I realized she had actually said, ‘Overeaters,’ and I resumed breathing.”

Like author Alison Hodgson, reading is my drug of choice. I must say, in my defense, much that has been amassed over the years interests me still: favorite authors, authoritative texts on history, fascinating biographies. For the most part, my books ARE books that I cherish and dip into, and yes (sometimes) re-read.

But what of those “lesser” books, those piled and hidden out of sight; unwelcomed gifts; or really-wrong purchases. Why are those still in my house?!

Now, I don’t consider myself a HUGE hoarder of books. Probably because I know a couple of people far, far worse! One book-loving friend can – like Hodgson, once – count books in the thousands. She and her book-loving husband amassed a room’s worth on the third floor of their condo, and also had shelving in the dining room, living room, office, and probably places I’ve never even seen. Mine is a quite modest collection, in comparison. (My mother, who owns few books, would beg to differ, but that’s a whole other blog post.) And I wouldn’t give them up for the world. There IS no library nearby with the FULL 6-volumes of The Letters of Mrs Piozzi, for instance. Plus, I’ve painstakingly built up this set over the years to have it “complete”. I have several sets, some purposely bought because they were sold as a unit (not many such sales out there), others are in the act of being built up as volumes come on the used-book market. (A must-must-must-have: dust jackets!)

piozzi letters

So, Alison Hodgson’s list of “Reasons for Holding on to Books” resonates, especially “Reason No. 3“:

It was part of a set. If you are a book collector, you know what I’m talking about.”

Indeed, I do. There’s something about the completeness of a series published in two or four or ten volumes that grabs my attention when I see them on a shelf. I can think of at least two series where I found a “volume one” or “volume two” locally, and hunted for its “matching” companion online. Had I read the book from cover to cover? Possibly not… I just knew I’d want the “set”!

Or, one can take the word “set” loosely: an author pumping out several tomes in succession can also constitute a “set” in my opinion. Think “All Creatures Great and Small” –> you just gotta have ’em all!

But remember, I’ve those piles beside an upstairs chair; another pile beside a set of shelves (actually, I think that one became tall enough to be divided into two piles, side-by-side). Those books are not parts of sets; I don’t think many of them were gifts; quite a few were remaindered hardcovers (i.e., bargains too good to pass up); one has an author’s signature.

There are a few that sounded good… But here I must confess a story behind the keeping of those: On vacation, in Paris, a decade or more ago, I had brought along a book (as I always do) — I just could not get past the first couple of pages. A year or so later, I took the book off the shelf; this time I devoured it! A fabulous read, well-written, fantastically-researched. The history of a handful of letters that opened up the life-story of a 19th century Frenchwoman. (Post a comment, if you wish to know the title & author.)

So, among these books that I’ve hated… perhaps one really IS a jewel in the rough – and I was just missing that interest-of-the-moment which sparks the reader-to-book connection.

Or else it is just a dud, taking up space, collecting dust.

But: I remember a travel book, set in the 1950s or 1960s, that I picked up for a song at a local used bookstore. It was “o-kay”. Nothing more. Didn’t I see it later, in a catalogue that I used to love receiving in the mail because of the spotlight it put on books that the press sometimes reprinted. There was that same travelogue! Reprinted (i.e., in paperback; mine was the original hardcover printing), and selling for 1000% more. As I write, I relive the moment in my mind’s eye, when I dipped into the paperbag of discards and retrieved that book: if it was good enough to reprint decades later, perhaps it was a better book than I originally thought. (Confession No. 2: I’ve never cracked it open again…)

I have to chuckle over Hodgson’s Reason No. 2 for keeping books: Sentimentality. She, like me, has the first copy of Pride and Prejudice that she ever read. I remember its purchase well because I bought it after watching the 1980 BBC version, with Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoul (still a favorite); one unwieldy volume with all the Jane Austen novels. Lovely drawings, like subtle silhouettes, herald the start of each novel. Who could part with such a treasure, even as I move on to the complete set (note that phrase!) of the Chapman edition of Jane Austen novels.

Alison Hodgson asks,

  • Do I love it?
  • Will I read it again?

To that I would add: “Would I be tempted to buy it again, not remembering that I read it already because I got rid of it?” If the answer to that question is “yes” – then save yourself some money, and pull the chair a little further from the wall (nice hiding place). Remember, too, that while it’s better to give than receive, you’ll possibly only receive a limp “buck” for that hardcover you paid full-price for. Far better to donate! Find a good cause.

To All Readers,
Best Wishes for a Book-filled 2014!

YouTube Reviews!

country houseTake a tour inside this superb book, Mark Girouard’s Life in the English Country House now on YouTube.

YouTube is a GREAT way to showcase books of architecture or costume — anything, really, with a wealth of illustration. This video review follows on the heels of my introductory video on volume 1 for the diary series of Norfolk-native Mary Hardy.

READ the 2012 review of Girouard’s book on Regency Reads.

A Departure: plugging Bas Bleu

Adding a couple of links to my Book Nook page, I clicked on the Bas Bleu link, and went through their entire catalogue. Oh, where to find the time to READ so many interesting books?!

I see Kate Atkinson has a new book out… And ditto Susan Vreeland (I loved her Girl in Hyacinth Blue, among others)… A retelling of Jane Eyre in The Flight of Gemma Hardy… Many Georgette Heyer titles… And some Jane Austen-related bits and pieces. Gotta have a closer look myself at a couple of items, including the book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle. Sounds like maybe Julian Fellowes did a bit of archival sleuthing…

Watercolor postcard kits make me think of my Smith&Gosling girls, Emma and Mary. No kidding: there are letters, I’m thinking of one by Emma’s youngest sister, Maria, where a sketch covers the first half of the first page.

And what a BETTER find than:

Mrs Hurst Dancing

Publisher / date: Victor Gollancz / 1981
Pages: foreword; introduction; 70 full-color plates; postscript {about 160 pgs}
genre: Art

After introducing Sophie du Pont, how can I not introduce readers to the delightful Mrs Hurst Dancing & Other Scenes from Regency Life, 1812-1823; watercolors by Diana Sperling; text by Gordon Mingay.

Reading about Diana Sperling’s family and life will leave you wanting to know more; her works of art will leave you wanting to fetch your pencils and watercolors. The text covers enough to explain and expand on the drawings. You learn about Diana’s family, her life at Dynes Hall (Essex), the trouble with donkeys, horses, and spiders!

I first learned of this book on a trip to Riversdale. The period of Rosalie Calvert’s letters overlap with these drawings.

Diana’s watercolors were one set among three discussed in my talk entitled “Georgiana Darcy and the ‘Naive Art’ of Young Ladies”. As one Amazon reviewer of this book mentions, “contemporary artists are a remarkable source of … information.”

Diana’s circle of family and friends led lives similar to the Smiths&Goslings, Dynes Hall being a neighboring estate to Suttons (though I’ve yet to find the families visited each other); lovers of Jane Austen’s novels will adore this visual glimpse of  day-to-day life in a period covered by her novels.

My “Leap Day” 2012 Present. Enjoy!