The first book that I picked up was Tea with Jane Austen by Kim Wilson-a slim volume devoted to life in Jane Austen's day as it pertained to tea. There were fascinating facts, quotes from letters Jane wrote, and all sorts of charming pictures and recipes. I quite adored the book.
The book was arranged throughout a day, starting with tea for breakfast and finishing with tea for dinner, with stops all along the way. The author carefully went through the steps that were taken to make tea, depending on class, and argues that tea was something extremely important to Jane. Wilson quotes liberally from the novels with loving descriptions of taking tea and discussing tea and judging people who don't take tea seriously.
Wilson obviously cares very deeply about tea and wants all of her readers to care as deeply about it as she does. Now I am not a devoted tea drinker, but I love history and I love Jane Austen, so this was a perfect book. And, really, this book was just a sort of history of that time period, seen through the lens of tea.
The writing was not breathtaking, however. There were some awkward, stumbling sentences and things were quoted with no clear source. I believe that this is Wilson's first writing and so we'll credit the mistakes with a not-very-great editor and inexperience.
I think that this book could be read as a coffee-table book; flipping through the pages at the pretty pictures and reading the quotes at the side. However, I sat down and read the thing cover to cover and was glad I did. Halfway through reading, I got up and made a pan of apple (the first of our own apples!), sage, and cheddar scones. I rooted around in the cupboard for a pretty, non-earthenware mug and curled up, feeling perfectly content. Readers, it was lovely. In fact, I think a pre-requisite when reading this book should be having a nice teacup filled with a period-appropriate tea (I chose Oolong), and a little something to eat.
One of the best parts was the recipes. Wilson would quote from a letter or a paragraph in one of Jane's books that mentioned a recipe and then Wilson modernized the recipes and included them in the book. I copied several down before I returned this book to the library.
If you have ever enjoyed reading anything about Austen, then this is a book for you. It's fun and interesting...the perfect weekend read. I quite enjoyed it.