Saturday, 23 April 2011

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Sometimes you walk into the library and there is a book prominently displayed that you would never have sought out, you actually had never heard of, but suddenly you want to read it, you MUST read it. Even though it really isn't the sort of book that you normally read. You can't explain this fascination, but there it is.

I would certainly not describe myself as a Jane Austen Addict. I have come to enjoy her work. I've read 5 of the 6 major novels, and some of her other writings. I've even reread Pride and Prejudice three times over the past 10 years or so, and enjoy it more each time. I watch all the new movies and mini-series as they come out, and enjoy them. I've read a number of Pride and Prejudice sequels and even the spoof Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But I still am nowhere near Addict level.

Still I had to borrow this book immediately, and read it quite soon, although I did actually renew it twice before even starting. Then comes the difficulty- should I renew it again? Can I return it after three months unread when I just had to borrow it? It won't take all that long to churn through, especially as this is a Large Print version. Even though I don't need a Large Print version, whenever I read one accidentally I wonder why I don't borrow non-Large Print editions more often, you get such a bigger sense of achievement as a slow reader as you whizz right through them.

This 2007 book probably suffers that whilst I have never heard of it until found displayed on the Large Print end table at my library I have watched Lost in Austen on the tele, and they really are pretty similar. Here, a modern day, sassy Californian called Courtney suddenly wakes to find herself inhabiting Jane Mansfield in 1813 England. Very much the Lost in Austen plot, and I didn't really like that either.

There would seem to be plenty of room for interest and even humor in a modern girl flung backwards nearly 200 years. Courtney is understandably obsessed in the lack of modern conveniences- no indoor plumbing, no feminine hygiene products, no makeup and no vodka. The plot is based on any Austen book- Courtney/Jane is single and so in want of a husband, especially in the eyes of her mother, although the more modern Courtney rebels against this somewhat- "And I resent it being a truth universally acknowledged, no matter what era I find myself in, that a single woman of thirty must be in want of a husband." Overall I found the blurring of feelings about men between the 19th and 21st centuries confusing, although predictable, and it was often hard to keep track of who Courtney/Jane was thinking about. The ending was rushed (as a lot of Austen's are actually) and especially confusing.

I see that there is now a sequel Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, recently released in Australia, which is apparently where Jane hurtles forth to Courtney's modern world. Clearly there is a huge audience with an unquenchable hunger for these books, of which I am but a modest part.

I found the most alarming summary sentence buried on page 97: I'm stuck inside a romance novel with pretensions to Jane Austen. Indeed.


Hannah said...

I've never felt the slightest interest in these Jane Austen spin-offs, but must admit to finding the television series of Lost in Austen a guilty pleasure (I'd take it over the Keira Knightley P&P any day). I'm kinda glad your opinion here supports my choice to avoid reading Austen "stories"!

Louise said...

I'm sure your position is quite wise Hannah. These things are usually a disappointment, but sometimes hope spring eternal you know. Actually I think I've enjoyed two- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and another one I read a few years ago, but can't remember the name. I don't know why I didn't get Lost in Austen- I remember laughing uproariously a few times in the first part, but then being totally bored with the rest.

Margot said...

I know exactly what you mean about those displays at the library. They just grab me as if it were some tasty treat and I was starving. Then I get them home and I'm not that keen to read it anymore but I just don't want to turn it back in. It is funny, isn't it. I haven't been tempted by the Jane Austen knock-offs so at least that's a good thing.

Louise said...

Finding new books at the library is like a wonderful treat isn't it? I like your notion of the delicious treat for the starving Margot. If I bring them home, I'm always keen to devour them, but fitting them in between reading group selections is always a bit tricky for me. But then we all want more time to read don't we? I've got another found at the library book waiting for me to squeeze it in on the shelf at the minute.