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“…my entrée to Austen was via Colin Firth prancing around in tight pants for the BBC. “

I couldn’t help but identify with Courtney Stone, the main character of Laurie Viera Rigler’s “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.” It wasn’t till I discovered the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and fell in love with Darcy aka Colin Firth, that I truly started enjoying Jane Austen’s novels. I owe that enlightenment to my exchange programme classmate, a Jane Austen fan. I would have never signed up for the Austen film analysis class, if not for her.

Perfect companions for a lazy Sunday afternoon

Courtney is a typical modern LA girl who suddenly finds herself single when she discovers her fiancé making out with the wedding cake maker just a few days before the “D” day. She wakes up one morning to find herself in Regency England in the skin on Jane Mansfield. Confused and convinced she is dreaming, she decides to play along and enjoy this marvelous extension of her Austen addiction…till she realizes that the dream isn’t ending and that she does seem to have teleported to the 19thcentury.

Horrified and almost terror stricken at first, she decides to make the most of the opportunity to visit the world of Austen’s novels. “I’m sure wherever the real Jane is, she’s just as eager to get back to her own life as I am to mine. So why not just relax in the meantime, experience the sensation of living in another body and another time. Jane Austen’s time, no less, and have faith that real life will return soon enough. At least in this world some else does the shopping and cleaning up.”

As the days unfold, however, Courtney discovers that life in Regency England is not just about being waited on, leisurely strolls in the garden and decadent meals. It’s also about dealing with a “wicked” mother who wants her married at any costs, strict societal rules about how she should conduct herself in public, whom she could befriend and where she could go. As if all this wasn’t enough, she also had to grapple with the attentions of the dashing Charles Edgeworth, who reminded her of Wes, her closest friend in the 21st century who had let her down by covering for her fiancé. Were Edgeworth’s attentions genuine? Was he to be trusted like Darcy or was he a Wickham?

A postcard from Bath used as fitting bookmark for “Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.”

As Courtney stumbles along the beautiful pathways of the English countryside, Bath, “with its elegant buildings of stone that look white in some lights, golden or pink in others” and London with its high society balls, she gets many occasions to comment on the manners of society in the 19th century. “It seems that while giving way to the grosser bodily functions seems to raise nairy a blush in the Lord’s house, having one’s period makes one a social outcast in one’s own house.” Witty comments such as this make the book an enjoyable read. Courtney’s chance encounter with Jane Austen, however could have been made more interesting. All that seemed to come out of those pages were Austen’s reticent personality and the anachronistic nature of Jane aka Courtney’s character. The denouement of the novel also left me a little dissatisfied. The sudden merging of the two worlds didn’t seem plausible enough. The distinction between the dream world and the real world, between the 19th and 21st century faded away in just a few paragraphs, leaving me a little befuddled.

The book is definitely a must read for all Jane Austen fans, but I would go as far as to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a novel set in Regency England. Pick up the book on a lazy Sunday. I guarantee you a blissful afternoon lost in the Austen’s England.

Related reading :
Review by Francesca Segal on The Observer
Review by Jayne  on Dear Author
Jane Austen Addict official site (I had no idea such a thing existed till I read this book)
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