Brit Books: A Dance with Jane Austen by Susannah Fullerton

It’s impossible to think of Jane Austen and her novels without the all important social events and elaborate balls. Just as Jane Austen herself enjoyed dressing up for a night of music and gossip, the characters in each of Austen’s novels also experienced the grandeur and occasional frivolity of the many dances of the time. Indeed, the ballroom scenes are some of the most memorable scenes in each of the movies based Jane Austen’s novels.

Balls in Jane Austen’s time were detailed occasions, filled with a cultural significance that perhaps a modern-day reader might not fully understand. Fans of Jane Austen with an interest in the cultural history of the Regency Era will enjoy A Dance with Jane Austen by Susannah Fullerton.

As President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, Susannah Fullerton has created a thoroughly detailed look at the balls of Jane Austen’s time. A Dance with Jane Austen covers numerous minute details that would have been extremely important in Jane Austen’s day. Discussing topics ranging from how one learned to dance to the proper planning of a dinner menu, Susannah Fullerton has created an exhaustive work of cultural history.

Blending Regency history with Jane Austen’s personal letters, A Dance with Jane Austen explains the difference between assembly and private balls, outlines proper etiquette in the ballroom and details important post-ball activities such as the supper, courtship and gossip.

Jane Austen personal letters reveal her own great interest in the social scene of her day. Austen’s family was not very wealthy, however balls were still extremely important. As a result, Austen and her sisters would have learned how to dance without the means of private instructors and would have been forced to ride to the balls with neighbors and friends. Nevertheless Jane Austen did enjoy the evenings, as evident in her many correspondences. Ultimately, it was Jane Austen’s own personal experiences that shaped her many novels.

A Dance with Jane Austen is filled with insights that should delight any Jane Austen fan. Occasionally the line between fact and fiction does blur as Fullerton discusses Jane Austen’s life and the lives of her characters simultaneously. Overall however, A Dance with Jane Austen is an engaging reference book of Regency cultural history that can add life and understanding to Jane Austen and her many wonderful novels.

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