A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters Went to the Ball

It is a truth universally acknowledged by Jane Austen fans that their favorite author loved to dance. Her letters contain many sharp, witty descriptions of the balls she attended, and her brief romance with Tom Lefroy began at a dance. Susannah Fullerton (Jane Austen and Crime) presents a beautifully illustrated exploration of dance in Austen’s life and novels in A Dance with Jane Austen.

Fullerton explores various facets of dance in the Regency era, from proper dress and etiquette for both sexes to a typical midnight supper menu (including a recipe for "white soup"). She discusses footwear, transportation and music, explains the different types of balls attended by Austen and her characters and emphasizes the central importance of balls as a place to search for, meet and court one's future spouse.

The period illustrations and dance diagrams are charming, but Fullerton's discussion of dance in Austen's novels is both incisive and entertaining. From the Netherfield ball in Pride and Prejudice to Anne Elliot playing the piano as her friends dance in Persuasion, Fullerton explains how dancing moves the action forward in each book and what it reveals about various characters. (She even draws heavily on the unfinished The Watsons.) By the end, readers will long to revisit the dance scenes in Austen's world and follow her heroines' practice of talking over the ball afterward with friends over a cup of tea. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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