Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Spotlight: Jane Austen Cover to Cover


Received a copy of the book from the Goodreads First read giveaway.   

Author's Note: Though this book is not devoted to the Civil War era, I have been a fan of Jane Austen's for several years and felt that I should share my review of this excellent book.

I remember my first encounter with the works of Jane Austen. I had received my yearly Christmas gift certificate from an historic house that I volunteered at. The house had an fantastic gift shop and on sale that particularly Christmas was a Dover Thrift edition of Jane Austen's Emma, it was 2005 and the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice was being released in theaters. I took that book with me to read between my college classes and my life changed. I feel in love with both Jane and her characters, a feat that few authors achieve. I was pleased to see a picture of my book in Margaret C. Sullivan's delightful Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Book Covers.

Margaret C. Sullivan's book is a celebration of Jane Austen's timeless appeal through an examination of Austen's book covers from the first editions published during her lifetime to the ebook covers of today. The covers are grouped by era and follow a chronological tour of the development of the publishing industry and the development of book cover art. I particularly enjoyed the sections devoted to movie-tie in editions and the growing number of books devoted to young readers. The book concludes with a chapter devoted to foreign editions, a fascinating peak into how non-English speaking cultures view the works of the very English Jane Austen. At the end of each chapter Sullivan provides a brief but insightful essay on a particular topic related to Jane Austen such at the fashion of her era, what she really looked like, and the growth of Jane Austen scholarship. My favorite essay was devoted to the growth of the cult of Jane Austen in antebellum America. 

The covers detailed in Sullivan's book range from the elegant collectors volumes to the hideously tacky. Personally some of my favorite covers were the delightfully horrid ones, the ones where you had to question if the book editors had even read the book. While fashions in book covers and art my change, as the book illustrates, Jane Austen has achieved the rare distention of being truly timeless, there are few authors who has remained as popular as her. 

Jane Austen Cover to Cover is a delightful romp through the publishing history of Jane Austen's books and belongs in the collection of every Janeite. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

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