Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou

Source: Author Lisa Pliscou
Paperback, 188 pgs
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Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou is an unusual biography in that it is written from the perspective of a young girl, the now famous Jane Austen.  In the introduction the author said she has created a “speculative biography” because there is so little known about Austen’s younger years.  She includes a time line for the biography and a list of sources, as well as a delightful annotated version of the biography in the back of the book.  Annotations help provide context to the well crafted narrative of young Jane’s early life.  An overarching theme in this biography is what makes a writer become a writer?  Are they born as such? Does it require simply a fondness for words or an observant nature and does it need to be nurtured just by the individual or by their own support system?

“But people aren’t born writers; they become writers.  They’re shaped by the circumstances of their lives — their personality, their interests, their experiences, their family and friends — and it’s never a certain thing that a talent with words, no matter how abundant, will find its full expression in both accomplishment and recognition.”  (pg. 141)

With this thesis in mind, Pliscou sets about illustrating how this may be true for Jane Austen, called Jenny by her family.  In many respects, she was not considered the writer of the family, and many in her family also wrote, including her mother.  And again, like most writers will tell you, reading can shape your craft as a writer, and as Jane read more and more, she began to use her knowledge to pick apart novels and other writing to learn how it functioned.

“Like Mama ripping apart an old gown of Cassy’s, only to put it together in a different way, creating a new gown for Jenny, Jenny was going to rip apart everything she had read.”  (pg 75)

Pliscou does touch upon the limited options available to women of Jane’s time, even in her transitions between different parts of the book.  At the heart of this biography is a strong young lady who sees an opportunity to become more and to be fulfilled in an unconventional way.  Had she different parents or siblings, perhaps there would have been no famous novelist.  But thankfully, that was not to be.  Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou is delightful, and would make a great introduction to young writers still toying with words on the page.  It demonstrates a young lady’s life as it is shaped by the world around her and the words on the page, and it also includes delightful illustrations.

About the Author:

Lisa Pliscou is an acclaimed author of both fiction and nonfiction — funny, thought-provoking, educational, inspiring — for adults and children, with a highlight on the coming-of-age experience.

Her work has been praised by the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, the Associated Press, The Horn Book, and other media.


Mailbox Monday #319

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer by Lisa Pliscou from the author for review.

What was Jane Austen like as a child? What were her formative influences and experiences, her challenges and obstacles, that together set her on the path toward becoming a writer?

Drawing upon a wide array of sources, including Austen’s own books and correspondence, Lisa Pliscou has created a “speculative biography” that, along with 20 charming black-and-white illustrations, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of young Jane Austen. Also included is a richly detailed, annotated version of the narrative and an overview of Austen’s life, legacy, and the era in which she lived, as well as a timeline of her key childhood events.

YOUNG JANE AUSTEN is sure to intrigue anyone interested in Jane Austen, in writing and the creative process, and in the triumph of the artistic spirit.

2.  Looking for Potholes by Joe Wenke from the publisher for review.

Poetry by Joe Wenke. Joe has written several books including: Human Agenda: Conversations about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (January 2015), The Talk Show: a Novel, Free Air: poems, Papal Bull: An Ex-Catholic Calls Out the Catholic Church, You Got Be Kidding! A Radical Satire of The Bible and Mailer’s America.


3.  The Sound of Glass by Karen White for review from the publisher.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

4.  The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy for a TLC Book Tour.

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.  Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

5.  One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart, my pre-ordered hardcover finally arrived!

Set in Florence, Italy, One Thing Stolen follows Nadia Cara as she mysteriously begins to change. She’s become a thief, she has secrets she can’t tell, and when she tries to speak, the words seem far away.

What did you receive this week?