I'm trying to stay focused when it comes to the research I'm doing, but I saw this at the library and couldn't resist. I'm glad I went ahead and picked it up. It's short, accessible, and fascinating. The chapter about Austen's portrait -- is that really Austen, and is the "Rice Portrait" definitely *not* Austen? -- alone makes it worth reading.
I was also interested (and rather furious) to learn that R.W. Chapman, he of the famous Chapman editions of Austen's works, lifted "the entire setting of the text" of his *wife's* own scholarly edition of "Pride and Prejudice" "into volume 2 of his 1923 set without acknowledging it or her, much less accounting for this wholesale duplication." Grr.
I very much enjoyed Johnson's thoughts on Austen's writing. This is lovely:
"I lay it down as axiomatic that whenever objects are made to stand out with any sort of specificity in Austen's novels, something is wrong. ...In most cases, particular things become prominent because they are noticed by a character who is a snob, a bore, or worse. In _Northanger Abbey_, for example, we learn about the hothouse pineapples, Rumford stoves, and a set of Staffordshire china manufactured two years earlier because General Tilney, that great and nasty social climber, brags about them. He calls that set of Staffordshire 'old' because he has a passion for new and newfangled things, and two years makes them pitifully out of date."
This is that rare book about Austen and her work that might well be of interest to the most casual reader of Austen (if there is such a thing as a casual Austen reader), or to the reader who hasn't yet picked up her novels.