Book: Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston (NEW April, 2010)
For the Jane-obsessed, or for those just wondering what tourists are doing in Bath these days, Writing Jane Austen could be a handy tour guide. The author’s education and her long list of published Jane Austen sequels guarantees accurate descriptions of Palladian homes, country gardens and Edwardian clothing over tightly corseted figures. Disappointingly, it does not guarantee a fun romp through Austen land.
After that long string of successful faux Jane Austen novels, Elizabeth Aston felt inclined to write something based in her own age, she says in the author interview at the end of this book. After all, Jane herself was not a writer of historical books. She based her stories firmly in her contemporary life. While I rather enjoyed the tourism aspects, almost nothing else worked for me in this novel.
Dialogue: You cannot tell one character from another, even though some are from different countries. American sounds like Brit sounds like Pole, for goodness sakes.
Plot: If there was any action unforeseeable in this novel, I did not see it. The American writer, Georgina Jackson, who takes on an impossible contract so that she can stay in England, dithers so long in unbelievable writer’s block, that I got reader’s block.
Character: While the Goth-one-day and Punk-the-next teenage character was interesting, most of the characters were either not credible or cut from cardboard. Georgina, the main character, supposedly is a bright, highly educated university teacher with a highly-praised book under her belt, yet she acts like a wimpy dolt most of the time. Henry, her landlord has to explain to her the essential parts of a novel. She has never read a word of Jane Austen and resists doing so for most of the novel, then instantly falls in love with them. (I suppose you could consider that last sentence a spoiler, except that the reader has been waiting for it to happen for about 100 pages.)
Jane Austen’s women are notoriously witty, spunky, attractive and focused on what they want. The author creates a basic problem when you do not like the heroine. I found this heroine to be tedious, whiny, lacking insight, disorganized, with about as much spunk as a wet dishrag.
And yes, I DO get that the novel is satirizing the mad rush to replicate Jane and over-the-top fandom.
Honestly, I wanted to like this book. But it let me down.
P. S. I did like the cover art.
P.P. S. The author’s other books are probably swell.
A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, who may be wishing they had not done so. A copy of the book went to one of the winners of the May Giveaway, and I’ll be delighted to run a opposing review if the winner thinks I’m all wet.
I much preferred the Jane Austen book based on a novella, that I wrote about earlier. Lady Vernon and her Daughter, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway yielded an interesting interview with the mother/daughter authors.
So, are you a Jane Austen fan? Are you a Jane Austen-revisited fan? Which is not at all the same thing! If you approve of this review, please give it a boost by clicking on one of those buttons below to share with Stumble Upon, Twitter, or other social networking sites.