Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

The more I stay here, the more difficult it is to have some semblance of detachment. After all, I’m doing more than just wearing a costume. I’m wearing another person’s life. And face. And body. I’m looking at that face in the mirror, brushing that hair. […] here, living Jane’s life, it’s a challenge not to get sucked in; how could I function on a daily basis otherwise?

With the sequel out there seemed to be no reason not to read Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. It took me a while to get used to Courtney’s voice (frank, first person present tense juxtaposed against Regency dialogue is comically jarring), but the story is engaging on several levels.

During a rough patch in her life Courtney Stone falls asleep reading Pride and Prejudice and wakes up in the body of Regency miss Jane Mansfield. She has no idea how she got there or how to get home, but quickly realizes she had better keep up appearances. And that includes the reappearance of dashing widower Mr. Edgeworth. Courtney knows how she feels about him, as he is similar to her friend Wes, but does that correspond with Jane’s opinion? As she tries to piece together Jane’s life with the help of her friend Mary and maid Barnes she discovers that perhaps Austen’s time still has a few lessons left to teach her.

The story focuses on Courtney’s personal growth as she learns to cope with betrayal and a lack of confidence. After a tailspin when her fiancé cheated on her she sees Jane’s perfect life as an antidote. Jane can embroider and dance, and has a figure that actually looks good in empire waistlines, not to mention access to Pride and Prejudice first editions. This could be a chance to start fresh without getting hurt. On the other hand, she comes to realize that even her actions here have consequences; mistakes are just a part of life.

Life in the Regency era isn’t all glamour. The current beliefs about medicine and hygiene are a horror to Courtney’s twenty-first century sensibilities. She soon learns to hold her tongue on these and other matters, however. Independence is restricted for a woman pushing thirty, so that Jane cannot travel alone and still lives with her parents. If she does not marry she faces years ahead with an ice queen who makes Mrs. Bennet look serene, which is enough to make Courtney long for Los Angeles. Rigler manages to sneak in the right amount of Austen references, so that Courtney the addict catches them but the story remains fresh and unpredictable.

Finally, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict brings new perspective to the philosophy of time traveling. As Courtney realizes, the physical bodies that she and Jane swapped included the wiring of their brains. Courtney has access to muscle memory so that courtseying and pouring tea seem second nature, but she also has occasional access to Jane’s actual memories. Even though these complicate the experience they also give a more complete picture of who Jane is. Courtney finds herself struggling to hold onto her own identity as acting and thinking like Jane becomes more automatic with the passage of time.

The overall effect is a story chronicling Courtney’s interior life and Jane’s exterior life. I can’t wait to read about the flipside in Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict. My only complaint was that we got Courtney’s backstory all at once. I agree that starting in media res was the way to go, but that doesn’t mean the whole expository chapter should be just shifted to a later slot. Weaving it in to the current narrative would have been a bit smoother. I have to include the darling UK cover here as well. Much more appealing than the cropped head trend!

This book is my fourth for the Everything Austen Challenge. I also started wondering whether I myself qualify as a Jane Austen addict. Probably not yet. I haven’t read the books 20 times like Courtney has, and I still don’t find Mr. Darcy completely swoonworthy (though he has grown in my esteem). But I do continue to admire both her talent and her influence.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 1:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is the flip side of Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. This is my fifth book f0r the Everything Austen Challenge. Many bloggers have commented on the […]

  2. […] Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler […]

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