Tuesday, 26 April 2011
I was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison
Cora Harrison herself, I found out, has released lots of books - I've never heard of her before!
Synopsis: When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship that she applies to her writing. Unexpectedly, Jenny meets a young naval officer at a ball who knows her desperate secret which if revealed could ruin her reputation and bring scandal to both herself and the wonderful caring Austen family.
Told through Jenny's beloved diary, Jane helps Jenny get through these obstacles that stand in the way of a better, more happier life.
(Partly from Goodreads.com)
Review: I loved this book. I really did. I've read both good and bad reports of this so I was a tad weary when I started it but really...I personally, think it is one of the best books I have read so far in my years that I can remember.
Okay, so some of you might be thinking I am going way too far but I think if you were me and read this book, you would totally understand where I'm coming from.
I ended this book wanting more, not wanting it to end or to go out of my reading live. It was that good for me.
The story is told through Jenny's diary which gives you a very detailed account on what happened and her feelings especially - and of the happenings of Jane Austen, her best friend, companion and dear cousin. However, the nice thing about this book with the characters is that, it's not all about Jenny and Jane. You also find out more about the rest of the Austen family and the school children Mr Austen taught. You get an insight into the life that they led in the 1700's - the etiquette, the manners, the family relationships, the courtship and the type of thing they would have seen as scandalous when we might not even think twice. The nice thing about this too is that Cora Harrison has played on the future relationships of the Austens and who, if you, like I did when I got back, look up, later marry or propose to. It's actually really interesting looking them up afterwards and seeing what happened and Harrison has done this well - not too obvious yet not too subtle.
The characters are very much like how I could imagine them, reading other books and facts about the Austen family. I can also see how the author has based some of the characters on Jane Austen's beloved characters in her own books which fits well with the book and adds a nice personal touch. Mr & Mrs Austen reminded me a lot of Mr & Mrs Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Edward-John Cooper (Jenny's brother) was a LOT like Mr Collins - although his 'humourous' lines weren't amazingly funny. And then Augusta, his wife, reminded me of Mrs Elton from Emma. Jane Austen, herself, reminded me of Emma, herself, which was interesting.
The funniest likeness was Jane's youngest brother, Charles being so much like Lydia in Pride and Prejudice...I have no idea why - maybe the playfulness and how he acted so young for a 12 year-old. I really liked these little touches.
My only complain is that Captain Williams, we meet in the first chapter. But then, he doesn't return until page 200-something. I can understand the long wait but...I would personally have liked him to come back earlier - he's a little cheesy for my liking but nice... :)
There is also the question of 'So how much of it is true?'. Well so start off with the characters are all real people (of course the Austen family were) and, as described in the Author's Note at the back which was interesting to read afterwards, Jenny was a real person too who had stayed at Steventon for a year. The only changes is Jenny's name was really Jane (but she couldn't really have two Janes in the story) and she was more older than Jane Austen and closer to Cassendra's, Jane's older sister, age. You can really see the thought and the historical detail that has gone into making this novel, probably 95% (maybe - I'm guessing) is true and real.
As you can tell, I absolutely love this novel and this is one of my favourites. I loved the descriptions, the characters, her writing and how is was so entertaining. Although some may not like the fact that it is very informal and unlike the Regency speak, I liked that - it made it easier to read and let's face it, who would want to read ANOTHER book in the language of Jane Austen that was written in modern times? I certainly don't.
I am looking forward to reading Cora Harrison's next book in the series, Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend which has just been released. YAAY!
I give it a 5 out of 5
Author's Website: http://www.coraharrison.com/
Challenges: BBC, Historical Fiction