Jane Austen by Brian Wilks is an introductory biography to the author’s life. Wilks is the author of several biographies of British writers. His Jane Austen was first published in 1977.
My background is in political science and history and despite a graduate degree, I have not read any of Jane Austen’s work. I do know that she wrote Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, which I am reading now because of this book. There is something very positive about a biography that creates and maintains interest even after it is finished.
At just under one hundred and fifty pages, this is by no means a detailed biography. It is written as a gentle introduction to the writer and her life. Wilks takes excerpts from Austen’s books and her letters to give a look at the informal life of Jane Austen. There is as much information on her family, world events, towns, and late eighteenth/early nineteenth-century English life in general as there is on her specifically. This creates a setting for Austen’s life as well as her writing.
While not a scholarly work in the sense of research and detailed information, it is an excellent introduction or Young Adult biography. The reader will get a feel and understanding for the writer in her environment. For the adult reader with little fore-knowledge of Austen, this will deliver the basics in a nice package. Rather than bullet point facts on the author’s life, it reads like a story. An excellent and very readable introduction to one of the period’s great writers.