The Jane Austen Handbook-Margaret C. Sullivan

I am one of those girls with an adoration of Jane Austen. I think if I had to pick a time period to live in, it would be Regency England. Beautiful dresses, dashing men in tuxedos, running water, no electronics- life was simple. Life was beautiful. I would aspire to be Elizabeth Bennet any day of the week.

I have come across this book a number of times over the years. Pinterest, StumbleUpon, numerous reading lists- this book isn’t an uncommon addition. It took my poor library days to locate a copy though. I made my 6249609868 trip to the library yesterday for the final book on my list- The Handbook.

A plan instantly formed in my mind. And I made it happen. First, I made myself some great summer tea. You can’t read something about life in England and NOT be drinking tea. For the recipe, check out the post Summer Tea. Next, I had to jump into my swim suit. And last but not least, wiggle myself into one of our pool loungers to float the afternoon away.


Yes, this made the hands-down best afternoon of reading I’ve had in a long time. Until it started raining of course. But I digress.

Sullivan breaks down the complications of Regency life into 4 lovely sections. Each section is then broken down into specifics. I personally enjoyed the section “Making Love,” which focused topics such as:  how too find a husband, find your daughters husbands, decline an unwanted proposal, secret engagements, and my personal favorite how to elope to Scotland. Before each focus point is a quote from one of Austen’s beloved books that pertains to the following pages. I loved the memories of reading the books these quotes invoked, and how impeccably applicable the handbook was to their situations.

Though this book seems to have absolutely zero use in today’s world, there are some serious lessons we should be reminded of as women.

A few things modern day women could learn from our Regency ancestors:

How to write a letter, throw a dinner party, catch a husband, how to be a valuable neighbor, how a lady might spend her leisure time, and the most useful of these OBVIOUSLY is how to dress. There are so many lost arts of our more demure “species” that have been lost over the generations. I believe this is mostly due to the fact that women are now educated like men, and we have jobs. Humorously enough, being a teacher during that time period was looked down upon as an occupation. Oops. 🙂 There is no reason for the art of dinner parties to be lost. I love throwing dinner parties and entertaining. Hostess with the mostess was just as important then as it is now. Letter writing is becoming a lost art. How lovely is it to receive a hand written letter in the mail now and again? Teaching freshmen high school students how to write a letter this past semester was a train wreck. Hand-written letters should be a skill that is taught and mastered.

I would recommend this book to any woman of any age. You also do not have to be a Jane Austen lover or expert to enjoy reading this book. Every woman should be reminded of the social graces and expectations of women in the by-gone days. It helps us remember where we came from, how far we have risen, and how far we have fallen in so many ways. This kind of goes along with my post on “How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World.” How to have class and be an upstanding woman. This was a quick read that I can’t wait to suggest this to my high school girls!


“Mr. Darcy’s Diary” Amanda Grange

‘The Meryton assembly! God save me from country assemblies!’ I remarked.
‘You have been spoilt by superior company,’ said Caroline.
‘I have indeed.The London assemblies are full of the most elegant people in the country.’”- Excerpt from “Mr. Darcy’s Diary.”

Everyone has either read or heard of Jane Austen’s best selling “Pride and Prejudice.” A juicy love story about a poor, brilliantly witty, lovely country girl meeting and loathing a spoiled, hansom rich man. But in a twisted trail of events, find that they are madly in love with each other. Unlike “Pride and Prejudice,” Grange takes another approach to the grumpy male lead- by way of his diary. Written in a first person point of view, the author gives the reader the male perspective of not only the society in which they live, but his feelings as well. In Pride and Prejudice, the story is more focused on Elizabeth Bennet (female lead), and the only understanding of Darcy’s comes through the few conversations he has and the interaction in the book. His feelings are shown, but not to the extent of a dairy. While reading “Mr. Darcy’s Diary,” I felt a little bad. It truly felt like I was reading his diary and the words that would come out of his mouth and that I was trespassing on his deepest thoughts. I also found that by reading this, it gave me a whole new perspective on “Pride and Prejudice.” The internal struggles in which he faced- to love the girl with no social standing and risk his social life or to ignore the obvious attraction and save face. Should he expose Mr. Wickham and expose his innocent sister, or keep his mouth shut and allow Wickham to cause more harm?

I found myself telling Darcy he was dumb, or a jerk, and at one point I had to just put the book down and walk away. I felt like he was so shallow, but I guess for the time and due to social and family pressures he had to measure his choice to love Elizabeth carefully. I read the book in one sitting. Other than my brief moment of disdain, I could not put the book down. This tantalizing love story had me laughing, crying and yelling at its characters. It is not a very long book so it was very easy to accomplish. I was begging for more as I turned the last page, just as I had when I finished “Pride and Prejudice.” Highly recommended as a light read, an extra spin for Jane Austen fans, and perfect for sitting on a porch and reading on a good summer day. By the end of the book, anyone will fall in love with the snobbish and insufferable Mr. Darcy.