That Jane Austen is enduringly popular with both a general readership and academics can admit of no doubt. But amid the wealth of approaches to her life and work, no one has made a full-length study of the concept of ageing in her novels. Maggie Lane’s new book sets out to fill that gap. With chapters on The Loss of Youth and Beauty; Old Wives and Old Maids; Merry Widows and Dowager Despots, the theme allows for a lively exploration of many of Austen’s most memorable characters. There are chapters
too on hypochondria and illness, age and poverty, death and wills. The book draws on the six novels, major literary fragments, Austen’s own letters and the reminiscences of family members and contemporaries. Real-life examples are used to underline the fidelity of Austen’s fictional representation. Ageing is very much on our own agenda, and Austen’s wry approach to the perils and consolations of growing older is bound to strike chords with many.