The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had picked up this book because I desperately needed something light after reading The Lovely Bones. I was feeling a bit down and thought to myself "A Jane Austen story would be the perfect picker-upper."
I was wrong. Though wonderfully wrought and beautifully executed, this story left me even more depressed than before. It was, as the author so perfectly put it, a story about a woman who "dared to love above her station, and lost." The fact that she had loved a man, but could not be with him, I found, a much more realistic, if depressing, ending to such a story. Everyone has been there - driven mad by want of another and forever denied them.
Incidentally, a greatly fascinating side of the story was the writer's process. I found the author quite correctly captured the inspiration behind writing characters and scenes, acknowledging that most authors, either aware of it or not, take real life experiences and create from them fictional scenarios. As a writer myself, I found I could very much identify with this little aside in the novel.
Now, some women find it comforting to read or hear about others in the same situation as they - they find comfort knowing that they are not the only ones who feel lonely, or unloved, or are craving a love that can never be realised. I find it utterly devastating. There are a flood of emotions that I have trouble enough dealing with on my behalf. Reliving them for another's sake is no comfort to me at all. It is loneliness felt twice over.
The story itself is brilliant, taking aspects from each of Austen's works and weaving them into a singular love story where Ms. Austen is the central heroine. As we all know, Jane Austen never married. I should have been prepared for the outcome.
Even better was the fact that the whole thing was presented as if they had been written by Jane Austen herself, discovered, edited and reproduced for the masses. There are even editor's notes in little footnotes scattered throughout the book. It put a smile on my face as the author was evidently aware of which parts of Ms. Austen's supposed love affair influenced which part of which tale later written by Ms. Austen. It put a smile on my face.
Three stars because it was a good read, even if not my usual genre.
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