A good collection of various bits and pieces from the Regency period, very helpful for my research. There are a few quotes from Austen's novels, but mostly it's things that the common reader won't come across: letters from various Austen relations, newspaper clippings, poems, diary entries, and so on. I loved especially all the clergymen complaining in their diaries about how many of the congregation were bound to be drunk, seeing as how it was Christmas. I also gained a more innocent enjoyment from the letters from Austen nieces telling their friends all about the games they played on Christmas.
I think my favorite part of the book was devoted to the Austen niece who kept a list every year of the gifts she'd been given. No big Christmas-tree spread or filled stockings -- just tokens from family and close friends. Some were quite interesting -- a mariner's compass from Mamma, a parallel ruler from "Aunt," "a splendid hair bracelet and clasp, their own hair," from "Belinda and Harriot." This one struck me as funny: on the list of what "Charles brought me from abroad" appears "Biscuit figure of a good girl from Dresden." (Charles also gave her a "Quantity of Petis Gris, or squirrel furs." !) Can someone explain this one to me? "Fanny -- A silk box. The winders made by her."
This is my JA nerd flag flying high and proud: It drove me *nuts* to see the editor referring to being "candid" in the modern sense -- that is, saying exactly what you think. A main point of _Pride and Prejudice_ is that Elizabeth's older sister is very candid. Candid in the eighteenth century meant giving benefit of a doubt even under trying circumstances. It *is* confusing when words shift meaning while retaining the same spelling, but anyone writing professionally about Austen's work had better have a grip on Regency vocabulary -- at least when it figures so prominently in her most famous work!
However, that's just me nerding out. If you're doing research on the time and place, or just enjoy learning more about Austen's world, this is a swift and enjoyable read.