Worsley covers familiar ground but also offers some distinct angles, emphasizing how middle-class women’s obligatory roles as household managers limited Austen in contrast to the broader possibilities of professions pursued by men of her class, highlighted through the lives of Austen’s brothers ... This is a Jane Austen with agency, embodying contemporary values of choice, intimacy through friendship, and fulfillment through creativity ... Biographies say as much about the culture in which they’re written as about their subject, and Worsley’s is no exception. In telling a compelling story of Jane Austen’s life, she also sheds a bracing light on contemporary debates about women’s public voices, domestic lives, and the importance of home.
With clear-eyed sympathy, Worsley traces the wanderings of a woman who let her few chances for prosperity pass by, but who never gave up writing ... Mining the family archives, Worsley introduces us to Austen’s inner circle and points out resemblances to characters in her novels — the hypochondriac mother in Pride and Prejudice, for one. She scoffs at the sanitized family memoirs and cautions against taking Austen’s own letters too literally: The tricky thing is that Jane — as always — was joking.'”
Jane Austen at Home is more than just an account of pokers, fire screens, writing desks, Jane’s round spectacles, handsome carriage sweeps in front of handsome houses, some very good and some very disappointing apple pies, the elm-lined walks of the Steventon rectory and the flimsy doors and uneven stairs of a rented house in Bath. But it’s not a great biography, and if it hadn’t been described as one on the cover, I would find even more to praise in these pages ... In Jane Austen at Home, Worsley is shameless, occasionally ebullient and sometimes a little breathless. Worsley is also given to some speculative writing, which is understandable since so much of Jane Austen’s insightful, acerbic correspondence was burned by her devoted, discreet, possibly envious, slightly overbearing older sister, Cassandra ... The thread that runs through Worsley’s chapters describing the many homes, the many residences, rarely grand, often inadequate and sometimes grim, is Austen’s longing for a place of her own, a safe haven in which she can live a little longer, afford a good lamp and comfortable seating and enough time. In this, the book’s central thesis, Worsley is entirely convincing.