Moser (Mozart’s Sister) frames this novel as a journal written by Jane Austen, following her life from when she falls in love with Tom Lefroy at age 20 until she is an established writer in her late 30s. Those familiar with Austen’s life will recognize many of the circumstances—the loss of the beloved family home at Steventon when her father retired to Bath, the death of her sister Cassandra’s fiancé, her mother’s many illnesses. However, they may not recognize Moser’s Austen, who mopes about pining after guys, resents her parents, worries regularly about whether she is a real writer and reflects on her faith in God (which was important to Austen, but which she was reticent to discuss). Austen’s voice comes through in extensive quotes from her letters—paragraphs and even occasionally pages. Since these are mostly unmarked, readers may not recognize them as Austen’s words, but their vivacity and wit often make them stand out from the rest of the writing. Some aspects of the book are charming, and it is an easy introduction to Austen’s life. However, it fails to be compelling as it devolves into simply tracking events as they occur, and does not capture Austen’s spirit. It will likely disappoint both Austen devotees and historical fiction fans.
I’ve read two of Moser’s ladies of history series (Martha Washington and Elizabeth Barrett Browning) in the past and I thought what’s better than reading about Jane Austen?! Besides, I recently purchased a collection of Jane Austen’s seven novels in one book, which I’m planning to read this year.
This book is rather slow and I had a bit of hard time concentrating but it provided many good insights into Austen’s life. It’s quite interesting how Jane Austen always claimed that her characters are not from her real life but rather invented but I see resemblance of her characters in many of her families and friends. After all, it’s the real people who the authors are inspired to write of or about. Perhaps it was Jane’s attempt to protect the privacy of those around her but if only she knew how far her novels would go and how much they would inspire people all around the world….