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.