Friday, October 24, 2008

Just Jane by Nancy Moser

Just Jane by Nancy Moser
Copyright 2007
Bethany House - Historical Fiction
367 pages, incl. author notes, study questions, and more

I totally do not want to use the regular format, again. You guys knew that was coming, didn't you? Okay, so let's go with the self-interview. It's fun and totally free of charge!

Me: What possessed you to read this book?

Myself: Are you calling me possessed?

Me: No, silly, just answer the question.

Myself: Okay, then. I've been on a Nancy Moser historical fiction kick. I actually saved Just Jane -- historical fiction about Jane Austen's life -- for last, since I'm fond of Jane Austen.

Me: Tell us a bit about the book.

Myself: The story begins around the time that Jane is pining for Tom Lefroy (played by the wonderful James McAvoy in the movie Becoming Jane) and continues until she has has been published multiple times. It then wraps up with an epilogue describing her final years and early demise. The focus is primarily on how Jane feels about her writing, how the family's moves stifled her, the frequent and lengthy travels to visit her large extended family, her relationship with her sister Cassandra, her struggles to get her work published and the men in her life.

Me: What did you like most about the book?

Myself: I really loved reading about Jane's struggles, the details of her life and how she felt about her writing. I thought Moser did a pretty good job of portraying Jane's wit and the importance of her familial ties. I felt like I learned a lot. The author, as always, followed up the book with notes on what was real and which portions were filled in by her imagination.

Me: And, what did you like least?

Myself: Having read all three of Moser's "bio-novels" in a relatively short time span, I found myself a little weary of her voice. Jane, at first, sounded a little too much like Nannerl Mozart, who sounded a bit like Martha Washington. That's common for me, though. I tend to avoid reading more than 2 books by any given author in a year, in general, because I crave variety. And, I thought the book improved, the farther I got into it.

Another minor complaint: Jane seemed a little whiny to me. For some reason, I like to imagine her as a much stronger person.

Me: Any bits of weirdness you'd like to mention?

Myself: I couldn't get Anne Hathaway out of my head. I'm afraid Jane Austen's image has been tainted by her. Also, I noted that Moser had Jane refer to an eggplant as an eggplant. In Great Britain, I believe they call an eggplant an aubergine.

Me: What, if anything, surprised you about Jane's life?

Myself: I had no idea she spent so much of her time traveling. And, I was truly surprised to find that she stopped writing for many years. I'd have to go back and look to see if the author mentioned whether or not there was reason to believe Jane was truly stifled by her surroundings, once she left her beloved Steventon, but that's exactly why I stopped writing fiction -- I feel like I've lost my muse because of my surroundings. I'd love to think it's possible to get that joy back.

Me: What about other characters, besides Jane? Did you find them believable?

Myself: Yes, although there were times I thought modern language eeked through. I was a little baffled by the use of just a few older spellings: "shew" for "show", etc. I'm not sure I understand the purpose of tossing those archaic spellings into a book that isn't perfect in its imitation of language from a particular time period and location.

Me: What did you think of the way the book ended?

Myself: I thought it was very well done. Again, there was one thing that perplexed me. The author says Jane was in a great deal of pain toward the end of her life and probably died of Addison's disease. I was a little curious as to why signs of her illness were never mentioned. But, that's not what the book was about -- it really was about her writing and how she felt about her characters . . . her restrained but witty personality and the reasons she never married. I've just given myself enough self-talk to unwind that question a bit.

Me: You do have a tendency to rattle on.

Myself: Yes, something you never fail to mention.

Me: Which of your readers would like this book?

Myself: I'd recommend it to fans of historical fiction, particularly those who like Jane Austen. I don't believe it's necessary to have read her work in order to enjoy reading about her life.

Me: How's the weather?

Myself: Clearing. It was cold and foggy, this morning, but . . . wait! That has nothing to do with the book.

Me: I think this review is over.

Myself: Hmmph. In that case, let me just say I recommend this book. It's not perfect, but it's very good (and I think one can always find reason to tear down anyone who dares attempt to portray Jane Austen, since Jane fans tend to formulate an image of her that is rather personal). I particularly love all that extra information the author tacked on about what happened to all of Jane's family members, research notes, etc. And, it's notable that Nancy Moser's books are extremely family friendly. I love that.

28 comments:

  1. What a funny review! I love it.

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  2. Hope the fog clears up--yucky!

    anyway--I love these reviews--my favorite format. :) My sister and I were talking the other night about Becoming Jane, which I haven't seen, and I was a little embarrassed to admit to her that I really don't know very much about her life except that she never married. This sounds like a good one!

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  3. Bermudaonion,

    Thank you muchly. You can imagine how much fun I have talking to myself, on a daily basis. ;)

    Trish,

    It's cleared up, now. The sun is blaring. My blue eyes liked the overcast, actually.

    Thanks. I try not to do self-interviews too often because I think they'd become quickly tiresome if they were a regular thing, but they're awfully fun to write! :)

    Just FYI, Becoming Jane is very different from Moser's book, since it mainly focuses on her relationship with Tom Lefroy and Tom is actually never in any scene -- she just talks about him or thinks about him, in the book. The book is better than the movie, in my humble opinion, for many reasons. But, I do love James McAvoy. Sigh.

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  4. Well--I just can't picture Anne Hathaway (as adorable as she can be) as Jane, so I don't think I'll be seeing the movie anytime soon. Do Love James McAvoy, though!!

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  5. You have stopped writing fiction? But it's almost November! You remember November, that NaNo month thing? You are still my Writing Buddy, see?

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user%252F212741

    I have a new blog just for NaNo 2008 this year. Wanna see it, too?

    http://nanowrimo-2008.blogspot.com/

    Come on! Give fiction another chance. Be crazy like the rest of us Wrimos.

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  6. Going to add this one to my hold list!

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  7. I like this review format myself although the reviewer seemed a wee bit snarky. Possessed? lol.

    It does sound like a good book but alas, I am almost as burnt out on Jane Austen as I am with vampires.

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  8. I thought ME asked some excellent questions and MYSELF offered very thoughtful answers. Did the both enjoy tea after?

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  9. Trish,

    I had a wee bit of trouble with Anne as Jane, myself. James was great, although I liked him better in Atonement. But, I'm not sure I was thriled with either movie, just James.

    Bonnie,

    I only write fiction during November. The rest of the year, I don't even try. I used to be a pretty prolific writer, but I stopped about 10 years ago. I'll still be there. I think you're on my buddy list. I'll check, in a bit, and will go peek at your Nano blog.

    Bookbliss,

    I hope you love it! I've enjoyed all of Moser's works of historical fiction and am kind of sad that there aren't any others left to read.

    Carrie,

    Me is very snarky. Sometimes Myself and I must duck.

    I certainly understand that. Both seem to be rather "in". And, whatever's in tends to get old quickly.

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  10. Care,

    'Fraid not, although we should have. Me, Myself and I all share an unfortunate passion for Mountain Dew that is reflected in our pear-shapedness.

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  11. Love those self-interviews. You are truly funny... or fractured.

    Cool that you're on for NaNo. I'll be there... but I still haven't a clue as to what I'll be writing.

    Any suggestions?

    cjh

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  12. CJ,

    Unfortunately, I think "fractured" is a pretty accurate descriptive term when it comes to li'l ole Bookfool.

    I don't know what I'm writing, either, although I had a vague thought that I ought to try a YA, just for grins. Nope, no brilliant suggestions.

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  13. Thanks for this review in the oh-so-funny format! Being right in the middle of the delightful Pride & Prejudice, I am sure that I will read Just Jane in the future.

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  14. Stephanie,

    You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed that little bit of weirdness. :)

    I love P & P -- wish I had the time to squeeze in a reread!

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  15. I loved your review! I've added this book to my list. I've been on a Jane Austen sequel/spinoff kick lately. I recently reviewed Lydia Bennet's Story, and I'll be reviewing Pemberley By the Sea soon.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  16. Your interviews with yourself are too fun! I really think you should let "I" in next time too just to, you know, liven it up a bit! ;)
    LOL about the eggplant, it most definitely is aubergine in England.
    I think I need to spend some time with Jane soon, if not a reread, then at least one of the film versions..

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  17. Okay, I'm an idiot! Annie and I read a totally different Just Jane last year. A historical fiction novel about a young English girl living in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. Duh, Debi.

    I didn't realize that Austen had Addison's disease (of course, I don't really know much about her at all). My brother-in-law nearly died of Addison's disease, so that tidbit caught my eye.

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  18. I love your self-interviews! Always enlightening, as well as entertaining.

    Not sure I'll read this one, but I may have to rent Becoming Jane since I like James McAvoy!

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  19. Anna,

    After reading Just Jane, Austen spin-offs sound particularly appealing. Reading about her life made me appreciate her characters, even more. I can't wait to read your reviews!

    Nat,

    I thought about that, but Me and Myself both ignored that train of thought. ;)

    Ah, thank you for confirming my suspicion about the eggplant error! Back when I went through my British Chick Lit phase, I looked up a lot of unfamiliar words that turned out to be produce (I ended up buying a lovely British/American English dictionary). LOL

    I'm thinking the same thing. I still have several Austen titles I've yet to read. It's just a matter of finding the time to squeeze one in.

    Debi,

    Oh, that sounds fun! I'll have to look for your other Just Jane title. It's not unusual for a single title to end up gracing the covers of several different books. I found that out, back when I had a short story published. Titles can't be copyrighted, so if you're seeking publication it pays to come up with an original title that makes your book easier to locate.

    Well, "possibly" Jane died of Addison's disease. I recall looking that up, a few years ago. Is it a thyroid problem? I can't remember. I'm glad your brother didn't succumb.

    Les,

    Thank you! I have loads of fun with those self-interviews. Have to throw one in, now and then, just for the sake of variety.

    James McAvoy's role in Just Jane is not my favorite, but he's such a wonderful actor that I was still glued to the screen in all of his scenes. I just read that he's starred in two movies with his real-life wife. I'm looking forward to seeing them -- not sure I even care what they're about!

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  20. I am amazed at all the Jane Austen stuff out there. Until about a year ago, I had not idea about the following she had. But somehow, it just doesn't speak to me. Love your interview!

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  21. Love this review :)

    I think I'd have a hard time getting Anne Hathaway out of my mind too if I read this book. Anyway, I'm adding it to the list because it does sound like a fun book.

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  22. Juliann,

    I think there's been a bit of a Jane explosion, just in the past couple of years, with all of the spin-off books. I've been a Jane Austen fan for quite a while, myself. I still have a few left to read, though. Wahoo for that. :)

    Iliana,

    That's one of the problems with movies and TV, although I will say that Mr. Darcy will always be Colin Firth in my mind and I think that's a good thing. :) I hope you enjoy Just Jane, when you get to it!

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  23. I think that this sounds really interesting. I'll have to add it to the TBR list. Great review BTW :)

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  24. Samantha,

    Thank you! I hope you love it, when you get around to reading!

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  25. Oh! This looks fantastic! I love anything have to do with Jane Austen.

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  26. Yes, Jessica, and you look so excited in that little image. I guess you just need to run out and buy a copy. :)

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  27. Wonderful review, and so clever. I'm reading a novel about Jane Austen right now that I'm enjoying. This one's going on the list to be read at a later date. Reading two books back-to-back may be a bit much for me.

    Nancy, I tagged you for a picture meme. It's fun, quick and easy, but don't feel like you have to do it, but I thought of you because of your photo skills. You can see the short rules HERE.

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  28. Booklogged,

    I try to space out similar books, too. I'll look forward to reading about the novel you're currently into.

    I just checked the 4th pic in my 4th file and it's awful. So, I looked at the 4th picture in the 4th row of the 4th file . . . not great. Then, I looked at the 4th picture in every row. That was more interesting. LOL Thanks, I'll join in. :)

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