A Jane Austen Christmas - A Review by Laura Boyle
Award winning regency author Maria Grace has pulled out the stops this season, delivering A Jane Austen Christmas in time for holiday gift giving (and receiving!) Eager to beef up my own knowledge of Regency holiday traditions, I ordered this little volume the first week of December, based on the preview given on Amazon.com. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding our own site listed as a resource (accessed according to the time stamp, only weeks before) in the very extensive bibliography given. It is clear that this was a “full steam ahead” project from the Austen oriented “White Soup Press”.
Although I have not read Maria Grace’s other works, I enjoyed discovering some new aspects to regency advent celebrations, as well as adding to my knowledge of period games and recipes. Clearly Ms. Grace has done her homework (see again, extensive bibliography) and loves the minutia of the era, as I do. The book is divided into 13 sections, with headings such as The Joys of Plum Pudding, Holiday Entertaining, Christmas Charity, etc. The first chapter of each gives an overview of the topic, with sub chapters providing details and conjecture on how the Austens might have incorporated these traditions into their celebrations. Close-to-period (1838) illustrations from Peter Parley’s Tales About Christmas add charm and reference.
While the overview of holiday celebrating contains information that might be found in many places, like Maria Hubert’s Jane Austen’s Christmas, Ms. Grace chose not to focus on the day to day details of such a celebration (such as the many extracts from persoal diaries and letters included in the former) but rather, to offer the “how to’s” of the time. This is what makes her little book (with just 99 pages of actual text) so unique. She has filled the chapters with instructions for parlor games that we might only have heard of, or seen period illustrations for; the extensive recipe sections would do credit to Mr. Darcy’s two or three French cooks, at least, Prettily bound and illustrated, this short work makes a cozy read for a winter night, especially if done so by light of the Christmas tree or crackling fire (would the Austen’s have had a Christmas tree? Read on and find out…) My one regret is that the rush to printing allowed for some slips in editing and the occasional typo detracts from an otherwise enjoyable book. The price point is perfect, however, and is a bargain for the holidays. You just might learn something new!
A Jane Austen Christmas by Maria Grace