If you want a chronological biography of Jane’s life, this is not it. It follows the general path of birth to death, but rather loosely. It skips all over, even within a chapter, since it’s more theme-based. If you want a general picture of Jane – and not just her, but the world she lived in – then this is the book for you. You learn a lot about Regency England, as well as subtle ways that Jane’s world entered her work. For example, I had no idea that Lady Bertram requesting an East Indian shawl in Mansfield Park was such a sign of the times and the fashion, but Byrne builds an entire chapter on the shawl, east India trade, and the London riots. Turns out many things in Austen’s novels have much greater social significance than I ever realized.
Any lover of Jane Austen should read this book. Not so much for the biography; there are other books that do that better. More for the picture of the world that Jane lived in and how that intertwines with the world of her novels.