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In her lively and accessibly written book, Juliet McMaster examines Jane Austen's acute and frequently uproarious juvenile works as important in their own right and for the ways they look forward to her novels.
Exploring the early works both collectively and individually, McMaster shows how young Austen's fictional world, peopled by guzzlers and unashamed self-seekers, operates by an ethic of energy rather than the sympathy that dominates the novels.
A fully self-conscious artist, young Jane experimented freely with literary modes - the epistolary, the omniscient, the drama.
Early on, she developed brilliantly pointed dialogue to match her characters.
Literary parody impels her creativity, and McMaster's sustained study of Love and Friendship shows the same intricate relation of the parody to the work it parodies that we later see with Northanger Abbey and the Gothic novel.
As an illustrator herself, McMaster is especially attuned to the explicit and sometimes hilarious descriptions of bodies that preceded Austen's famous reticence about physicality.
Rather than focusing on the immaturities of the juvenilia, McMaster maps the gradual shifts in tone and emphasis that signpost Austen's journey as a writer.
She shows, for instance, how the shameless husband-hunting in The Three Sisters and the vigorous partisanship of The History of England lead on to Pride and Prejudice.
Her book will appeal to Austen's critics and to passionate general readers, as well as to scholars working in the fields of juvenilia, children's literature, and childhood studies.
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