Despite its title, the reader will not find Janine Barchas's book a fetishistic retread of the facts about Jane Austen's life but rather a reimagining of Austen herself as a fetishizer of facts. According to Barchas, “historical specificity” was at the very heart of Austen's compositional method (60). Asking us to see this specificity in the form of places, or “location,” and people, thus “celebrity,” Barchas brings Austen's work into surprising proximity with the historical fiction of Walter Scott and the urban mapping of James Joyce. Happily disappointing those readers who might expect to find a conventional biographical approach, this book does a salutary job of pushing against the “inclination to interpret” Austen's “fictions through her biography instead of her knowledge of history” (3).

The move to recognize Austen's fiction as more interested in history and politics than in creating sealed-off domestic...

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