Posts Tagged ‘Jennifer Forest’

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.

Blog: Behind Jane Austen’s Door

Print Length: 51 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
X-Ray: Not Enabled
Lending: Enabled

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Gentle readers, Collette from the Serendipity franchise has graciously allowed me to reprint her review of Jane Austen’s Sewing box. I wrote “franchise” because her online presence includes: Serendipity Vintage, Serendipity Handmade, Vintage Life Network, Serendipity Vintage Facebook, and SerendipityVintage on Twitter.

I also now have a copy of the lovely Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stories from Jane Austen’s Novels. You may have seen a review or two on other craft blogs. As I am a Austen aficionado I could not pass it up:

It is a beautiful book, filled with gorgeous color fashion plates of the time that are worth a look. I read it cover-to-cover and enjoyed every moment. However, I would recommend purchasing it only if you enjoy historical Regency costume and /or are a die-hard Regency or Jane Austen fan.

As for the crafts themselves, some are probably of more interest to the costume enthusiast (like the cravat, the bonnet, or the tippet). There is only one photo of each project and even one more photograph of each project would have enhanced this book. Yet one whole page might be devoted to one short quote from one of Austen’s novels, or to a lovely painting from the time period:

The actual instructions for each project were also quite succinct and limited to only one page. If you’ve ever read any of the antique craft books from the early-to-mid 19th century you know that project instructions were usually all text and that diagrams were sparse. The actual descriptions of the the projects were very reminiscent of the actual books of the time. Still, I would like to make this case for embroidery thread:

In the time of the Regency you would store your
embroidery thread on a bone or wood thread winder

Austen mentioned each craft project in one of her novels, and it is fascinating to read the excerpts from the novels and then read Forest’s commentary about the craft as it was practiced at the time. If you are interested in historical craft and want to know more about the role of crafts in the lives of Regency women you will love the historical detail in this book. It’s definitely an informative and charming read!

Photographs from Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, Murdoch Books, or in the public domain. Review reprinted with permission.

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