Jane Austen at Home
On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.This new telling of the story of Jane's life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn't all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a 'life without incident', but with new research and insights, Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster, in fact, had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

Jane Austen at Home Details

TitleJane Austen at Home
Author
FormatKindle Edition
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 18th, 2017
PublisherHodder & Stoughton
Number of pages400 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Biography, Historical, Biography Memoir

Jane Austen at Home Review

  • Kristin Davison
    January 25, 2017
    To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Austen, Worsley has come out with a lively biography that focuses on Austen’s homes (or lack of them). This angle gives an interesting insight into how Austen lived her life day to day and how much this influenced her work. Worsley’s style of writing is clear, entertaining and easy to read, I flew through the book. The information that is presented is very well researched and gives a real idea of who Austen really was and what she looked like. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Austen, Worsley has come out with a lively biography that focuses on Austen’s homes (or lack of them). This angle gives an interesting insight into how Austen lived her life day to day and how much this influenced her work. Worsley’s style of writing is clear, entertaining and easy to read, I flew through the book. The information that is presented is very well researched and gives a real idea of who Austen really was and what she looked like. What Austen looked like is hard to determine, but Worsley presents a clear image that is oddly familiar. Austen becomes a “modern” woman with a temper and a want of independence. This biography packs a punch, I learnt so much from it. It has just the right amount of contextual information is included, informing the reader about the era without overwhelming them or turning the biography into a textbook on the era. Worsley debunks myths about Austen herself and the era in which she lived and wrote. I loved that Worsley includes historical and archaeological evidence, as a hopeful future archaeologist myself, this is refreshing. The influence behind Austen’s novels is obviously discussed, but Worsley brings forward new and interesting ideas. The idea of Austen as a “modern” woman who didn’t like having to do domestic chores is explored along with the subtlety of her novels and where the original spark of imagination for her writing came from. I love that Worsley suggests that this may have come from Austen’s time at the Abbey school Reading, though I may be bias as I was born in Reading. In conclusion this is a fantastically entertaining book that is completely worth picking up, I now have a list of places I want to visit and stay at along with books to read. Dr Lucy Worsley is the Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, covering Hampton court, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Banqueting Hall, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. Worsley gets amazing behind the scene access to these properties and often tweets about the goings on. She is an insightful writer having recently released two childrens’ fiction books based on Katherine Howard and Queen Victoria and is also regularly seen on TV, including her latest series Six Wives. Twitter = @Lucy_Worsley------------------------------------------------I would like to thank Lucy Worsley and Maddy Price at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a physical proof copy! I look forward to reading it :)
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  • Tony Riches
    February 1, 2017
    I can say with some confidence that, after reading this book, you will never read Jane Austen’s works in quite the same way again. I also wonder if, like me, your mental picture of Jane Austen is a blend of the famous ‘portrait’ by her sister Cassandra and Anne Hathaway’s memorable portrayal in TV’s (historically inaccurate) ‘Becoming Jane’? If so, you must read this brilliant new work by Lucy Worsley.Lucy’s lively style and relish in fascinating details shines new light on the real Jane Austen. I can say with some confidence that, after reading this book, you will never read Jane Austen’s works in quite the same way again. I also wonder if, like me, your mental picture of Jane Austen is a blend of the famous ‘portrait’ by her sister Cassandra and Anne Hathaway’s memorable portrayal in TV’s (historically inaccurate) ‘Becoming Jane’? If so, you must read this brilliant new work by Lucy Worsley.Lucy’s lively style and relish in fascinating details shines new light on the real Jane Austen. Most of what I thought I knew was right – but lacking the vital context provided as we study the reality of Jane’s home life. In the modern vernacular, we would say she was ‘just about managing’ for most of her time, although Lucy helps us understand what was considered normal in Georgian society – and what was not.Jane’s sister destroyed many of her letters deemed ‘personal’ and those which survive have been described as ‘mundane.’ Lucy Worsley disagrees and finds delight in the trivia. She says, ‘...her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required. These letters are a treasure trove hiding in plain sight.’ I was also fascinated to realise Jane knew her letters could be read aloud, often over breakfast, so used a code known to her sister to ensure discretion.To return to what Jane might have looked like, Lucy suggests she was around five feet seven, with a twenty-four inch waist (the alarming consequence of wearing tight stays as a girl). She rebukes biographers who describe her as a ‘plump, dumpy woman’ based on Cassandra’s portrait rather than the evidence. Similarly, the romantic image of a lonely writer fits poorly with the known facts.I was intrigued by the glimpses of the author’s own formative years. By wonderful coincidence Lucy attended the Abbey school in Reading where Jane Austen was sent as a border at the age of thirteen. (She also stayed at the same house as Jane Austen by the sea in Lyme Regis.) As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on the 18th of July, I highly recommend this new book, which establishes Lucy Worsley as one of my favourite authors.Tony Riches
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  • Damaskcat
    May 19, 2017
    I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.Lucy Worsley succeeds in presenting a three dimensional Jane Austen in this fascinating biography. She shows how the Austen family tried to sanitise the picture which was presented to the world after Jane's death but the evidence is still there if you choose to look for it. By reference to previous biographies, primary sources, the novels themselves and the juvenilia the author pieces together a very much more robust picture - warts and all.It i I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.Lucy Worsley succeeds in presenting a three dimensional Jane Austen in this fascinating biography. She shows how the Austen family tried to sanitise the picture which was presented to the world after Jane's death but the evidence is still there if you choose to look for it. By reference to previous biographies, primary sources, the novels themselves and the juvenilia the author pieces together a very much more robust picture - warts and all.It is well known that Cassandra Austen - Jane's sister - destroyed some of her letters after her death to help create the picture of her which has been handed down through the generations. But there is enough evidence in the surviving letters to show that Jane's character was not all sweetness and light. She was someone who belonged to the more robust culture of the eighteenth century rather than the more mealy mouthed and buttoned up nineteenth century culture.You only have to read Sense and Sensibility and appreciate the earthy vulgarity of Mrs Jennings to know that Jane Austen must have been aware of aspects of life which would not automatically be associated with a maiden aunt. Her letters show she was something of a flirt and had many possible suitors - all of whom she refused in the end. Jane Austen was very much aware of the facts of life.She also had a very well developed sense of the ridiculous and a sense of humour which could see something amusing in most situations. She also enjoyed misleading people and her letters and the novels can be read on many levels and it is very far from clear whether she is joking or being serious.This is a book to read and re-read and Lucy Worsley has written what to my mind is one of the best books about Jane Austen ever written. The book contains a comprehensive bibliography as well as an index ad notes on sources throughout the text. If you only read one book on Jane Austen this year then make it this one.
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  • Teresa
    June 12, 2017
    This is a fantastic read. I've read a few Jane Austen Biographies and some were a bit high brow and I had to trudge through others. It's all change with this one. The chapters were laid out clear and concisely. It started with her early days and went right through in order. As usual the chapter about her death is extremely sad but very well done. I thought I knew all there was to know about Jane but I picked up some new snippets here. I was pulled into this book as soon as I started reading. I s This is a fantastic read. I've read a few Jane Austen Biographies and some were a bit high brow and I had to trudge through others. It's all change with this one. The chapters were laid out clear and concisely. It started with her early days and went right through in order. As usual the chapter about her death is extremely sad but very well done. I thought I knew all there was to know about Jane but I picked up some new snippets here. I was pulled into this book as soon as I started reading. I stopped to do a group read of another book and couldn't wait to get back to it. Enthralled again as soon as I picked it up.For anyone who's new to Jane Austen's novels or just Jane herself, I'd highly recommend this book.
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  • Abi White
    May 21, 2017
    I am a massive Janite, but am still Shocked that I have read a biography at such a pace. This really did "feel" more like a work of fiction, and managed to be fun despite doing nothing to gloss over the fact that being a poor unmarried "gentleman's daughter" sounds like my idea of hell. I will certainly be seeking out Lucy Worsley's other books, and will be making a pilgrimage to some of the places described in such great detail. I cried at the end. Does that count as a spoiler?
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  • Angela Smith
    March 3, 2017
    I am an admirer of Lucy Worsley's history programs that she presents on television and her love of history is infectious. (Although I caught the bug for history at an early age) When this book came up for me to read and review I jumped at the chance because I wanted to see if her love of history transmitted as well to the written page. Jane Austen is a subject dear to my heart as well.I have read several books about Jane Austen and her life as well as her letters to her sister Cassandra. While I I am an admirer of Lucy Worsley's history programs that she presents on television and her love of history is infectious. (Although I caught the bug for history at an early age) When this book came up for me to read and review I jumped at the chance because I wanted to see if her love of history transmitted as well to the written page. Jane Austen is a subject dear to my heart as well.I have read several books about Jane Austen and her life as well as her letters to her sister Cassandra. While I have enjoyed those books, none so much as this book about Jane's life. Lucy presents many interesting details about how the real Jane Austen was through thorough research. (You should see the extensive notes and bibliography listed at the back of the book)She presents a Jane Austen as a woman ahead of her time. There are various references to people that she could have married but it really seems she decided on the single life at an historical time when it wasn't acceptable to be unwed. After Cassandra lost her fiancée she never showed interest in finding another potential suitor either. Marriage wasn't a particularly appealing prospect back then except for financial security and the comfort of a roof over your head. The book tells Jane's life in depth without becoming bogged down and you can feel the author's love of the subject matter in how she writes it. However, this is no star struck account of Jane and hints at her wilder side that was supressed by the times that she lived in and how she was "expected" to behave. The book tells of her life from birth right up to past her death and how the family hoped to profit from her two unpublished manuscripts Northanger Abbey/Persuasion even after her death. There are family fallings out, hopes of expected inheritances, Jane's struggles to get published and even what many authors face, rejection of her work. There is a feeling that although she loved writing that she never really believed in herself. I wonder if it was due to members of her family downplaying her talent and focusing more on a brother who had had published sermons. It seemed Jane was only considered good as free childcare and in a domestic role rather than her talent as a writer. Life was tough and lived on a shoestring budget, even more so after the death of their father. It was fascinating to read about her development of her stories and I was surprised to read that Persuasion (My favourite Jane Austen novel) was started on August 8th (1815) which is my birthday. Reading about her stories, there was a lot of similarity in names of people she knew in real life that were very close to names she gave to characters of her books.This is a well rounded book that gives an interesting insight to one of Britain's most beloved classic writers. On the front of the book it says The perfect marriage of author and subject and of that I agree.
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  • Mandy
    May 30, 2017
    A thoroughly readable and enjoyable account of Jane Austen and her world, with a well-judged balance of scholarship and anecdote. The tone is a little breathless at times, to be sure – but then it is Lucy Worsley and the occasional exclamation mark is to be expected. I’m not sure that we learn anything new here but it’s all presented in a fun and accessible way. Worsley is a populist historian and this is a populist book, but none the worse for that. I really enjoyed it, learnt quite a lot, and A thoroughly readable and enjoyable account of Jane Austen and her world, with a well-judged balance of scholarship and anecdote. The tone is a little breathless at times, to be sure – but then it is Lucy Worsley and the occasional exclamation mark is to be expected. I’m not sure that we learn anything new here but it’s all presented in a fun and accessible way. Worsley is a populist historian and this is a populist book, but none the worse for that. I really enjoyed it, learnt quite a lot, and found that Jane Austen came alive in a way she sometimes doesn’t in more academic biographies.
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  • Kimberly
    May 29, 2017
    "Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness"~Virginia WoolfWell done indeed, Lucy Worsley.
  • Elizabeth Lloyd
    April 25, 2017
    On the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen I feel beholden to return to her timeless stories, but in Lucy Worsley’s book I have been given additional insight into Jane’ character and sensitivity. “Jane Austen at Home” is assiduously well documented, showing a depth of research and most importantly, a grasp of Jane’s spirit.At first sight, the thick book of small text seems daunting, but as you begin to read you are invited in to Steventon Rectory and soon come to know Jane’s family; he On the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen I feel beholden to return to her timeless stories, but in Lucy Worsley’s book I have been given additional insight into Jane’ character and sensitivity. “Jane Austen at Home” is assiduously well documented, showing a depth of research and most importantly, a grasp of Jane’s spirit.At first sight, the thick book of small text seems daunting, but as you begin to read you are invited in to Steventon Rectory and soon come to know Jane’s family; her loving father, unsympathetic mother, the legion of brothers and dear sister Cassandra. From Jane’s letters and many accounts by family members, Lucy has built up a clear picture of her everyday life and the way in which her homes are reflected in her books.It is a delight to read Lucy’s own voice as she reveals her discoveries about Jane Austen,in her letters – “her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required.”Jane’s letters were “double-voiced,” giving an entertaining account to be read aloud, but with a sub-text that her nearest and dearest would understand. Lucy Worsley also parallels Jane’s letters to the tweets of J K Rowling.It is the first time that I had fully appreciated that the demands of the long Napoleonic War, raising prices and causing shortages, made middling families, such as Jane’s, experience hardship but they also brought the military officers in their dashing uniforms, both aspects being the meat for Jane’s plots. The retirement of Reverend Austen and the family’s move to Bath are described in intricate detail, underlining the dreadful effect on Jane and Cassandra. We read of the sale of all the family’s books and of Jane’s piano and her music. Leaving her home of 25 years, they move from one rented house to another among the “pea-soup fogs in Bath.” Her father’s death causing a large drop in their income shows how much she understood the importance of money to her heroines.The frustration of Jane Austen’s life story is how poorly she was acknowledged as an author, during her lifetime and what a pittance she received when they were published. Despite the help of her father and her brother in finding publishers, novels and women writers were not yet considered worthy of praise.Reaching the chapter where Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen move back to Hampshire and settle into Chawton Cottage, I also felt as if I was coming home. I could see her sitting by her table in the cottage window, trying to write, while others moved about the compact house. The last few years of her life show Jane as a calm, determined woman with the same purpose and energy as her heroines.This is a book for lovers of Jane Austen’s books who wish to know more about this quiet, enigmatic person. Did she have romances, were there regrets that she remained single and had no children? Did she achieve what she wished to accomplish? I suggest you read “Jane Austen at Home” to look for those answers.
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  • john Plowright
    May 16, 2017
    Darwin is out and Jane Austen is in, at least as the new face of the £10 note this year. The timing is no accident, as 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death and there is bound to be renewed interest in her life and work. Not that Jane Austen is ever really out of fashion. Last year, for example, saw the release of ‘Love and Friendship’ (based on the novella ‘Lady Susan’), the latest in a long line of stage, television and big-screen adaptations of Austen’s work.Why does Austen continue Darwin is out and Jane Austen is in, at least as the new face of the £10 note this year. The timing is no accident, as 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death and there is bound to be renewed interest in her life and work. Not that Jane Austen is ever really out of fashion. Last year, for example, saw the release of ‘Love and Friendship’ (based on the novella ‘Lady Susan’), the latest in a long line of stage, television and big-screen adaptations of Austen’s work.Why does Austen continue to command a large audience? In the case of TV and cinema undoubtedly one factor is what has been termed ‘Big House Syndrome’: the idealised depiction of the world ‘upstairs, downstairs’ which not only affects Austen (with Lyme Hall providing the exterior and Sudbury Hall the interior shots of Pemberley for the much-loved 1995 BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’) but many other period dramas, from ‘Brideshead Revisited’ (Castle Howard) to ‘Downton Abbey’ (Highclere).In fact, as Paula Byrne has pointed out in her excellent ‘The Genius of Jane Austen’ (an expanded 2017 re-issue of her 2002 ‘Jane Austen and the Theatre’), the houses in Austen dramatisations tend to be too big as “the productions’ designers and location scouts failed to see that Austen speaks for the values of the lesser gentry and to scorn such idle, vain aristocrats as Lady Catherine de Bourgh (the embodiment of both pride and prejudice) and the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple (in ‘Persuasion’).”Lucy Worsley’s ‘Jane Austen at Home’ is a welcome attempt to ‘downsize’ Austen as author, placing her “in the context of the physical world of her [relatively humble] homes” in order the better to interpret her life. This approach yields real insight into the conditions in which Austen lived and wrote, as well as illuminating something of the more general social history of Regency England.Where Worsley falls down is stylistically. Consider this passage:“She [Jane] writes of some acquaintances, ‘all good humour and obligingness’, but mentions their inadequate dress sense, and hopes that they will follow the coming fashion of ‘rather longer petticoats than last year’. Those are literally the last words of her last letter - petticoats!” One could object that Austen’s last words are not literally ‘petticoats’ because that is just one word and not even at the end of her last sentence. It is, however, the exclamation mark to which I take particular exception.Exclamation marks – or exclamation points as they tend to be known in the U.S. – certainly have their place, and Austen herself often uses them but some writers, like Worsley, overuse them as a means of metaphorically jabbing the reader in the ribs (usually in order to ensure that they respond in the approved fashion).Thus at various points the reader of ‘Jane Austen at Home’ is regaled with:“Wrong, wrong, wrong!”“Big mistake!”“Horror! “Thoughtless Henry!”“Pitiful Fanny!”“Poor Caroline!”and so on.It will thus come as no surprise to learn that Worsley entitles Chapter 25 “Published!”‘Jane Austen at Home’ deserves to be published for the useful contribution it makes to Jane Austen studies. It’s just a pity that one of the greatest of literary stylists is sometimes serviced here by a form of gushing, breathless pre-pubescent prose that sounds like a parody of Angela Brazil.
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  • Samantha Morris
    February 24, 2017
    I’m sure many of my readers can recall sitting in English Literature at school, reading one of Jane Austen’s novels. And I’m sure many of you can recall finding them (at that age), incredibly dull, not helped by the fact that you had to pick them apart to find every single hidden meaning within every single sentence. I certainly did. But after I left school, I found a new found appreciation for Jane Austen and her novels. The romance and normality of her work was something I found to be incredib I’m sure many of my readers can recall sitting in English Literature at school, reading one of Jane Austen’s novels. And I’m sure many of you can recall finding them (at that age), incredibly dull, not helped by the fact that you had to pick them apart to find every single hidden meaning within every single sentence. I certainly did. But after I left school, I found a new found appreciation for Jane Austen and her novels. The romance and normality of her work was something I found to be incredibly comforting. But what I never really knew that much about was Jane Austen’s life – I knew that she’d spent some time in Bath, having been past the Jane Austen museum there time and time again as a youngster and I knew that she’d spent a few years in both Southampton and Winchester. So when I found out that Lucy Worsley was writing a biography on Jane Austen’s life, I was intrigued to read it.From the moment I opened this book I was entranced. To start with, Worsley’s style made this an incredibly easy read and thus I ended up losing hours to this book without even realising it. Worsley’s style really didn’t make this book seem like a heavy historical biography, but rather injected a lot of her quirky pizzazz that I adore about her television programmes. It’s not often that I find any sort of historical biography to be a page turner, but this one is an exception!When thinking about Jane Austen living in Georgian England, I at least always imagined her life to be rather dull. But Worsley shows this to be completely untrue. I was particularly surprised to read about just how many marriage proposals Jane had throughout her life. She never married, holding out perhaps for the romances that she wrote about in her novels, which I find to be incredibly brave in an era when it was expected that women would marry and bear children. Jane Austen cherished her freedom – marriage may well have caged her and thus not allowed her the freedom to write.Jane’s struggle to get her work published initially is something that many authors will sympathise with. Her initial work, Susan (which later became Northanger Abbey) was submitted to a publisher in Bath but nothing ever came of it until she brought back the copyright. It was never published in her lifetime, however. Jane never gave up with her writing – something that authors can really learn from. It’s so easy to become downhearted and refuse to carry on if a piece of work is rejected, something which Jane never did. Yes, she had bouts where she seemingly didn’t write at all. But, after all, writers block affects even the greatest writers.I was particularly keen to read about Jane’s time spent in Southampton, particularly as I regularly walk past the Dolphin Hotel and its blue plaque stating that Jane danced there for her eighteenth birthday. It was incredibly interesting to read about what the city was like then and compare it to now – Worsley even mentions the army recruitment centre and takeaway’s that are opposite the Dolphin these days! I’ve even had a pint (or three) in the pub that was built over the site of Jane’s house in Castle Square. Southampton, these days a bustling city full of history, certainly seems to have been much more picturesque in the Georgian era when Jane lived there. The city walls that lay at the end of her garden (and are still there!) once looked directly over the water which lapped against its walls. These days, though, the land has been reclaimed. If you walk along the bottom of the walls towards the old water gate, you can see a line in the pavement which marks where the shore used to be. Very interesting indeed.The end of Jane’s life, although sad, certainly wasn’t lonely. She was surrounded by her loved ones and still had her beloved sister Cassandra at her side. The relationship between the two sisters is incredibly heartwarming – the two really seemed as if they were best friends as well as family, right up until the end.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it made a nice change from the heavy biographies of the Italian Renaissance that I normally have my nose in. It has certainly opened my eyes and given me a greater understanding of much of the meaning behind Jane’s novels – the loss of a home, the use of naval careers for many of her male characters etc, and in particular the idea of romance and the very idea of home being more personal than just bricks and mortar. Not only that but the research that has gone into this work is absolutely impeccable. It has made me want to sit down and re-read my Jane Austen collection, in all honesty, something that I am very much looking forward to. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the wonderful Authoress and her life.
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  • Zakirah
    May 9, 2017
    A brilliantly researched and intimate insight into the life of one of my favourite novelists - and the perfect companion to the current Austen book-slash-film-fest I am having right now (how many times can one rewatch Pride and Prejudice in the name of research?)The adoration Worsley has for Austen really comes across, and I'm certain would infect even the. A warm and informative read, really enjoyed it.
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  • Laura Moore
    June 13, 2017
    Simply wonderful! I adore Jane Austen and greatly admire Lucy Worsley so this book provided me with the perfect combination. The book was very readable whilst being packed full of information and the accompanying TV programme brought it all vividly to life. I can't wait to see Lucy Worsley talking about this book in person at the Buxton Literature Festival in July!!
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  • Carrie
    May 24, 2017
    It's like my favorite girl crush and my patron saint had a love child and it's the most wonderful being ever to walk the earth!!I adore Worsley and her insight into Jane Austen. She actually addresses some of the points that have just bothered me a bit when I read Austen's novels. She debunks a lot of the stories told at the Jane Austen center and house, that just don't make sense.
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  • Vikki
    May 28, 2017
    oh my gosh....loved it soo much. just going to have to read more biographies about her!!
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