Jane Austen: An Illustrated Biography and
Virginia Woolf: An Illustrated Biography
by Zena Alkayat (author) and Nina Cosford (illustrator)
2016, 128 pages, 6.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
Hand-written text, whimsical illustrations and lots of fun facts are combined into Library of Luminaries' new series of Illustrated Biographies. The series launches with small, foil-embossed hardcover books about two famous authors – Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. (The series will release Coco Chanel and Frida Khalo in August.) This collection is an easy way to learn about the lives and careers of classic authors – it's like Cliff Notes for literature lovers.
Through bits about family histories, friendships, inspirations, career highlights and low points, the reader gets a glimpse into Austen and Woolf's worlds. I knew some stuff about both authors' backgrounds, but wow! I still learned a lot! I had no idea that Austen only earned the meager sum of 140 British pounds in royalties for two years' worth of the sales for Sense and Sensibility. And that once Austen's identity was made public, the Prince Regent contacted her directly because he was a huge fan of her books. She went on to dedicate Emma to him. I also didn't know that Woolf loved dogs and had a pet marmoset named "Mitz," nor did I know that it took 15 years for the book The Voyage Out to sell 2000 copies. We know these women had tragic lives, but they had joys too. I finished these books with a sigh.
– Carole Rosner