Thursday, January 08, 2015
Jane Austen's First Love
Posted by JaneGS
I had the good fortune to interview Syrie James as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, Jane Austen's First Love, back in November, but I didn't actually review the book then. Time to remedy that!
Jane Austen's First Love is aptly titled--James has created a fictional story about how 15-year old Jane Austen, a lively, big-hearted, and clever young lady, falls in love with the equally lively and dashing Edward Taylor. Edward lives near the Bridges family in Kent that Jane's brother Edward is about to marry into. As luck would have it, Jane's parents allow her, her sister Cassandra, and younger brother Charles to spend several marvelous weeks in the summer at the Bridges's palatial home--essentially giving them free reign to dance, romp, picnic, and flirt their time away as part of the pre-nuptial festivities.
With shades of Mansfield Park hovering over the story, Jane spearheads a plan for all the young folk gathered to do a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. With shades of Emma Woodhouse coloring Jane's personality, Jane's objective is to play matchmaker, including making a match for herself...with the marvelous Edward.
As you might imagine, Jane's well-laid plans go awry and things don't work out as she imagined. What I liked about the story and James's portrait of a very young Jane Austen is that she acted her age--she was young and full of life and not pedantic--but her heart and sense of ethics were solid. She learned from her mistakes, was humbled, and grew in self-awareness and compassion. I love to think of the author I've loved for so long as developing from this sweet, intelligent girl.
Kudos to Syrie James for creating a lovable, believable heroine in Jane Austen as a teenager. Jane Austen's First Love is a delightful antidote to the January doldrums and I can recommend it highly.