A worthy companion for writers and readers that entertains and enlightens.



Jane Austen’s “five-times-great-niece” draws inspiration and instruction from her ancestor’s novels and letters in this valuable compendium of advice.

In a letter to her niece Caroline, an aspiring writer, Austen, a longtime member of the Chawton Book Society, stressed, “if she wanted to be a writer, she had to be a reader.” It’s common enough advice for writers, but it’s worth reiterating in an era when reading material is becoming increasingly truncated. Smith (Creative Writing/Univ. of Southampton; Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas, 2012, etc.), who had the “immense good fortune to be the writer-in-residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum,” knows the value of this directive firsthand. After reading and rereading Austen’s works, she led writing workshops based on what she learned. She structures this guide, which grew out of that effort, around the essential components of good storytelling: plot, character, sense of place, point of view, dialogue, and a number of devices—suspense, irony, and pacing, for example—writers can employ. Much of this material is standard fare for a book on writing, but Smith’s research, literary perspicacity, and the use of excerpts make the book a unique tutorial and delicious read. She uses passages to demonstrate elements of writing, such as the “sparkling” dialogue in the conversation when Lady Catherine demands that Elizabeth promise she will never marry Mr. Darcy. A scene from Emma, when the protagonist tries “to engineer an opportunity for Mr. Elton to declare his love for Harriet Smith,” is a prime example of a subjective point of view. Those struggling with the writing life will find a sympathetic voice reaching out from more than two centuries ago. Among the gems is this basic advice written in inimitable Austen style: “It may be your head is full of joints of mutton (ugh!) and doses of rhubarb, but if you do have time to sit down and work, you can often still get things done.”

A worthy companion for writers and readers that entertains and enlightens.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-588-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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