About the Book
Jane Austen’s Best friend: The Life & Influence of Martha Lloyd, is a biographical memoir of Martha Lloyd, penned down by the author Zöe P Wheddon. Author Zöe Wheddon has recollected the life of Marth Lloyd and her friendship with Jane Austen after extensive research of archives, meeting people, visiting places, and taking a note of every trace of information available about them. This recollection is curated & crafted into an intimate memoir of a special friendship between a 13-year old Jane and a 23-year old Martha which grew deeper over the decades of their lives.
An unusual bond of friendship bloomed in the study chambers of the Austen family when Martha Lloyd, daughter of Revered Noyes of Bishopstone and Mrs. Martha Crave came to live in Dean Parsonage, after the demise of her father. Martha Lloyd, who met an unkind fate at a young age, was soon smitten by the creativity and artistic taste of the Austen family. But for Jane, who was known for her intellectual curiosity, wit and burlesque mannerism, it was not enough to have a good taste to become ‘the friend and sister under every circumstances’. Martha’s rationality, intellect, good humour and opinionated personality interested Jane, and it didn’t take long for these two to become acquaintances and then close friends.
Martha was Jane’s escape from the dull, irrational, and unjust social circles and her companion & confidant in the secret world of writing. Jane was all ears to Martha’s opinion in her decisions and conscious of her criticism of her work. Their friendship had to suffer the pain of separation and unexpected turbulent times, but the warmth never faded. The book opens a closed window to the private and obscure life of Jane Austen where we find Martha Lloyd sharing an inseparable bond born out of love, empathy, passion for literature, and the unkind phase of destiny as well.
Structure and Elements of the Book
The book is a biography of Martha Lloyd, and traces the life of Martha and Jane with a detailed account of births, marriages, literary career, death and other events with dates & places that can be validated from the referenced sources in the book. The 16 well-curated chapter, capture the essence of the thrill, humour, warmth and depth of friendship between Jane & Martha. Besides, the central characters, the book also describe the characters, lives and the significance of both Jane & Martha’s family. Mary James Austen is one character you can never forget in your life and can’t help but imagine living with her.
The author deserves appreciation for portraying a consistent, concise and absorbing narrative despite the vast collection of memories of Jane, Martha and their family members. This book is a detailed nostalgic note that takes us back to the time when ‘Juvenilia’ was born. There are excerpts of Jane’s dedication, letters and poems written for Martha. I couldn’t help but be intrigued and thrilled to find the life of Jane & Martha as one of the Jane’s protagonist’s life. The book echoes the sentiment and characteristic style of Jane Austen’s novels.
It is a pleasure to read such a well written book. It appears that the author has handpicked every word to suit the sentiment of the sentences. It is a delight to read Zoe Wheddon’s rich expressions, precise sentences and enchanting narrative of people, places and the period. The chapters are well knitted in a sequence of events occurred in the life of Martha Lloyd and flows without effort. The conversations between the characters are a typical of Jane’s literary style and readers can relate to Jane’s expression as she would have said herself. One of the many reasons to read this book will be Zoe’s realistic and beautiful portrayal of Jane & Martha’s friendship.
Who would not read the story of life of the most celebrated novelist of all time? Although a formal tone of review is followed by Shelley Reviews I couldn’t contain my emotions from inking this review. I found this book more than an evidence of Martha’s influence in Jane Austen’s life & work. It is a testimony of their great friendship which survived the test of time and destiny. It is where we see Jane as a concerned and proud friend of Martha Lloyd trying her best to ensure Martha’s happiness. For Jane, Martha’s presence was both a blessing and a recluse for her fleeting life.
I compliment the author for giving me another Jane Austen work to cherish for life. With these words, I recommend this emotional yet exciting voyage of friendship & unseen phases of best & worst of Jane Austen’s life.
All the opinions and comments are posted voluntarily by Shelley Reviews and we thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing an advanced reading copy of the book in exchange of fair and honest review.
Pro Book Reviews Rating
Structure and Elements:4/5