While on a Regency-worthy getaway in Katoomba (located in Australia’s Blue Mountains) earlier this year, I came across ‘Mr. Pickwick’s: Fine Old Books’ (an oddity of a name, but how quaint!). Katoomba, for the uninitiated, is a town of about 8,000 people and is famous for The Three Sisters and Katoomba Scenic Railway. The shop itself, selling books, art and antiques, had that sort of dim-lit cosy look that feels like a burrow in the manner of The Wind in The Willows or a Quentin Blake illustration. With books from ceiling to floor and on almost every wall of the three storey shop, it’s a miracle that The Jane Austen Quiz and Puzzle Book ended up with me as I left (NB: a surprise gift from a very lovely person).
Maggie Lane is a Jane Austen academic, the author of many leading scholarly articles and the book ‘Austen’s World: the life and times of England’s most popular author’, a member of the British Jane Austen Society (and a spokesperson for the organisation in an Austen BBC documentary), a lecturer about Jane Austen for many JA societies, and was heavily involved with important Austen projects in Bath including the creation of a new Jane Austen Visitor’s Centre. She had also produced similar quiz books for the Bronte sisters and Shakespeare.
First published in 1982 by Abson Books, most avid Austen readers will recognise the accompanying illustrations in this 40-page paperback as those from the 1890s Macmillan editions of the canonical books (juvenilia etc are not included in the quizzes) from Hugh Thomson and Charles Brock. Throughout, you are asked to guess the quotation that fits the picture. If you have the Jane Austen Illustrated Treasury that I grabbed on my Melbourne adventure, then you can be a bit cheeky, cheat and just look at the removable pictures with the original quotations below them.
Maggie Lane has developed a thoroughly challenging, amusing and (dare I say it) diverting quiz book for all those of us who not only have a (not unhealthy at all) Austen fetish but also a nerdish obsession with crosswords, word searches, knowing parts of quotes, ridiculously specific trivia and word play in general. If you’re like me and the first page you turn to in any magazine is to the quizzes, then this is for you. Quizzes are plentiful through the Austen novels, but even as an admittedly obsessive Janeite there were questions that stumped me completely, for instance: In Mansfield Park “Who wore Lace-up half-boots?” and “What was the colour of: The curtains at Highbury Vicarage” are very difficult yet common types of questions asked by Lane. However, don’t be put off if that sounds difficult- half the fun lies in rifling through your collection and searching for the answers, and for each difficult one there as an equally simple one to make you feel worthy again (e.g. fill in the quote “What are men __ rocks and mountains?”). If you find it too hard, or you’re just perusing a copy, the full answers are at the back as is normal quiz-book practice.
But how much Pride and Prejudice is there? A tonne. The first quiz asks straight away “Who: Acquired a sun tan” and if you don’t know the answer to that one, then I will shun you from P&P forever more! If you think that answering the Christian name of Mr. Bingley is easy, then I challenge you with answering what type of soup he offered at his ball, or in what month did Elizabeth refuse Mr. Darcy… or even who wore a nightcap and powerdering gown at some stage during the novel? Simple in layout, and easy to understand and use, it’s nonetheless a great brain stretcher.
You can order The Jane Austen Quiz and Puzzle book either through JASA (Jane Austen Society of Australia) or through Amazon and similar book sites. Have you completed any of the quizzes or know of other Austen quiz books? What do you think?