Some books are so useful they are hard to pass up. Several months ago, I received the Kindle edition of Behind Jane Austen’s Door by Jennifer Forest, author of the delightful Jane Austen’s Sewing Box. Behind Jane Austen’s Door takes you on a tour of a Regency house, room by room – the entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, breakfast room, dressing room, bedroom, and kitchen – to
explore the challenges and lives of Jane Austen’s women. Included is an appendix that provides a quick overview of the Regency era.
More accessible in tone and organization than the excellent Behind Closed Doors by Amanda Vickery and If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley, which cover similar but more comprehensive territory, this book can be used as a quick reference by people who want immediate access to the purposes and functions of the rooms in a Georgian household. What distinguishes this book is its close association to Jane Austen and her novels (much like Jennifer Kloestler’s book, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, is associated with that author).
In these large houses [such as Pemberley], the women didn’t need to use the drawing room during the day. There were other rooms for use; they had their own office and other smaller parlors. The drawing rooms, and yes there could be more than one drawing room, in these big houses were just for receiving the morning visitors and for evening entertainment.
One gains close glimpses of a rich family as well as one of more modest means, such as the household that Jane Austen’s mother oversaw.
She works with the cook in preparing menus, sourcing food and caring for the vegetables, dairy and chickens. On washing day, she and her daughters work alongside the servants to get all the laundry completed: it was just so time consuming in the days before washing machines! A gentlewoman had to monitor the budget, find supplies and pay the bills for all those expenses, including the tea and wine.
While much of the territory that Jennifer covered seemed familiar, it is arranged in such a pleasant and easy to use format that new authors to the Jane Austen genre or Regency romance will find it very useful, especially Jane Austen fans.
Jane Austen’s own mother used her dressing room at Steventon as a second sitting space, more casual and private than the drawing room. After five weeks of illness, Mrs Austen’s return to health allows a resumption of tea in the dressing room. “My mother made her entree into the dressing-room through crowds of admiring spectators yesterday afternoon, and we all drank tea together for the first time in five weeks … We live entirely in the dressing-room now, which I like very much; I always feel so much more elegant in it than in the parlour.” Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, Sunday 2 December 1798.
Oh, there will be people who say that they already know this information and that the book provides nothing really new, but readers who are just discovering Jane Austen and the Regency world will think otherwise. I, for one, am happy to have another source to turn to when checking my facts about meal times and the precise function of certain rooms and furniture. The book, which is a quick read, is available in e-book format. I found this quite convenient, for I can access it on all my mobile devices and computers. Also, at $2.99 for the Kindle version, it is quite a bargain. I give it four out of five Regency teacups!
About the Author
Jennifer Forest has a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Cultural Heritage Management. Jennifer is a museum curator with a love of beautiful old historic buildings. She lives in Australia, a country built by Regency England.
Print Length: 51 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
X-Ray: Not Enabled