Sunday, July 8, 2012

Review: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend
by Cora Harrison
Young Adult
Read From: July 1, 2012 - July 1, 2012

Cover Blurb: I honestly don’t care for it. The girl does not at all look like she is from the Regency era - her hair and her makeup are all quite modern - and the guy in the background looks nothing like how I imagine Captain Williams. I love the title’s font, but everything else suggests yet another heart-pounding romance story, and while it is romantic, the story is not at all as serious or dramatic at the cover implies.

What I Liked: Jane is an opinionated, energetic, sarcastic, and fun young woman. Jenny is fun, too, but she’s quiet and doesn’t like to get into trouble. As such, she presents a wonderful contrast to Jane’s unique personality. Jenny is a very good narrator and a stronger girl than she at first seems. She may be shy, but if something has to be done, she’ll do it. That is clearly indicated in the very beginning, when Jenny braves the midnight streets to send a letter to Mrs. Austen - a letter that ends up saving Jane’s life. I loved all the different relationships among Jane and her brothers, and I loved the illustrations.

What I Disliked: The only thing that bothered me was the relationship between Jane and her sister Cassandra. It is widely known that she and Cassandra were very close to each other, but never once did I get that feeling in this book. In fact, I got the exact opposite impression. (NOTE: the Author contacted me and explained that the reason she did not portray Jane and Cassandra's close relationship is because in her experience girls at that age don't have their sister as a best friend. While I still wish Jane and Cassandra's relationship had been portrayed as it was in later life - it is possible that they were always close; my sister and I were - I can see the logic behind the Author's choice, and so mark this down as a personal preference complaint, and not a mark against the Author's story choice.) And Captain Williams fell a little flat as a character. This may be due to the fact that the Reader hardly gets a chance to make his acquaintance, but I just didn’t sense much depth in his personality. And I began to wonder how many bloody times Jenny could describe his brown eyes, high cheekbones, and chocolate-smooth voice.

Believability: It’s rather surprising how little is really known about Jane Austen herself, but it’s very evident that the Author delved into the Austen family history as far as she could possibly go, and then used her imagination to flesh out what she couldn’t find hard evidence for. It worked. Knowing Jane’s humor through her writing, it is very easy to imagine Jane the way she is presented in this book. Energetic, sarcastic, always has something to say - and of course, always scribbling. I think the Author gave us a very believable - and probably pretty accurate - Jane Austen.

Writing Style: The majority of the story is written as if it were Jenny’s journal. And then there are a couple of key parts that revert to first-person present-tense narration. I didn’t think such a transition would work. And I dislike present-tense. Amazingly enough, it actually fit the story. The Author also cunningly inserted little incidents and snippets of dialogue that it is implied later inspire scenes and conversations in Jane’s books. Seeing as Jane made a study of human absurdity and folly, it is very possible indeed that a lot of dialogue and incidents in her books were derived from actual circumstances.

Content: Nothing.

Conclusion: After a couple of misunderstandings that were more amusing than frustrating, things end happily, and this is a book that needed a happy ending. Even better, the Author didn’t twist historical events in order to craft a happy ending, since Jenny’s true story has one anyway.

Recommended Audience: Jane Austen fans, of course. Any Austeneer will find this an amusing read. It’s suitable for any age, and a girl read.

Others in This Series:
1)I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend
2)Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend

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