A Biography of Jane Austen by Lucy Worsley

 Top of my list of favourite recent reading is a biography of Jane Austen by the historian Lucy Worsley who, if you live in the UK, you may have seen presenting a variety of history-related documentaries.

Godmersham Hall, home of Jane Austen's brother, Edward Knight. Mansfield Park is thought to be based on this property

 I was totally engrossed by Jane Austen at Home, which was a Sunday Times Bestseller. I borrowed it from the library but enjoyed it so much that I am about to buy a copy for reference purposes when reading Jane Austen's novels. Yes, I was so intrigued by Jane Austen's life and how it influenced what she wrote about that I am now re-reading her novels - in a totally different light from that in which I first read them.  My current bedtime reading is Mansfield Park. Well, I say bedtime, reading but I am so absorbed in it that I am spending as much time as possible racing through it. The garden has been sadly neglected and the ironing piles up!

If you are interested in Georgian history/Jane Austen's background and how it influenced her writing, then I thoroughly recommend Jane Austen at Home. If you appreciate impeccable characterization, primary historical evidence about the Georgian era and literary irony in a page-turner about the considerations faced anyone contemplating marriage - then and now - try Mansfield Park.

Brief Synopsis of Mansfield Park :

The heroine of the story, Fanny Price, was sent as a small girl to live with her wealthy uncle and aunt at Mansfield Park. Her childhood there was not the happiest, but she developed a close friendship with her cousin Edmund. The friendship developed into a crush as she grew older, which blinded her to the opportunity of making a good marriage.  She is determined that she will never love anyone as she loves Edmund. He is blind to her feelings and has himself fallen in love with Mary Crawford and confides in Fanny that there will never be another woman for him. The next twist to the plot is that Mary's brother decides to make a marriage proposal to Fanny.

One of the main themes of Mansfield Park is the difficulties faced by impoverished Georgian gentlewomen when presented with the dilemma of whether to marry for love or to secure their financial futures. Fanny is a particularly moral young woman and, though shy, is stubborn and has strong principles.  How will she decide whether or not to accept the marriage proposal from the wealthy Mr Crawford?