Saturday, April 24, 2010

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

304 pages
PLUME, Published by Penguin Group

Published 2008 (2007)
New York, NY

Ok, so I have a confession to make... Actually two confessions.

Confession 1: While I do enjoy the works of Jane Austen I wouldn't go so far as to call myself an "addict." Yes, I have read all of her novels, but I do not read them over and over and do not rely on them as a compass to my life's decisions. I have also seen several of the film adaptations over the last 13 years and even own a copy of the 5+ hour A&E adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, but they aren't on my weekly play list and I could care less whether Mr. Darcy dives in a pond or not. To add to this I steer clear of any so called "sequel" or "continuing story" novels by modern authors, they just haven't been worth my time though I realize many people enjoy them. Likewise, with the exception of Austenland by Shannon Hale (which by the way, was really good.) I haven't read any of the Austin-themed chick-lit. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict was an exception, which leads me to my second confession.

Confession 2: I didn't actually mean to read this book. I actually thought I was reading a different book, titled Jane Austen Ruined My Life, which had come highly recommended by my friend Alison and also by Carrie at Reading to Know. I guess it's understandable how I could mix up two completely different titles what with all the Austen-themed literature out there, but I admit it's really my fault for not stopping to double check with either of these ladies as to the title of the book before I began reading. By the end of Confessions I was really puzzled at how differently this book turned out than what they'd told me and it was then I finally realized my mistake. Funny, but true story.

All that to say, next time I will double check the book title and author before proceeding with reading. But now to get to the real point of this post -- my review of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

For starters, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is, as I mentioned above, a novel that might be classed as Austen-themed chic-lit. It's the tale of a Courtney Stone, a single woman in her 30s, living in Los Angeles during the 21st century. Courtney, who while nursing a very broken heart, is also extremely obsessed with Jane Austen and the romances within her novels. One day Courtney wakes up to discover she has some how time traveled from the 21st century Los Angeles to the early 19th century England, and most shocking of all she is no longer Courtney Stone in her own body, but living in the body of some other woman named Jane Mansfield. Confusing? A little, but the author does a good job explaining.

What ensues is a story of self-discovery and romance. Courtney must pretend to be Jane and call upon her knowledge from the Austen novels she's read and what history she can remember from school all the while trying to figure out how to return to her own body in her own time.

Overall it's a cute story. The plot is clever and unique. I especially liked the chance to learn more about the day-to-day life of the 19th century that is left out in any novel of that era. Of course I could easily learn this by reading a history book, but I admit it was fun to have these details woven into an easy-read like this novel. But honestly, that's about all I liked about this book.

I often found Courtney's 21st century attitude and worldview annoying and in such stark contrast from the 19th century way of life. As typical of modern chic-lit there was a definite focus on sex in relationships, which thankfully went without too much detail (excepting one scene). To add to this I wasn't completely sold on the romances in this book. But as I have said in the past, authors today try but cannot capture the same spark and passion of the romance that Austen had in her novels. Their focus is too much on the physical and not enough on the psychological and emotional aspects of the character's relationships.

Oh! And to add to this there is one scene where Courtney (as Jane) runs into the real-life Jane Austen. The scene and conversation that follows made me want to smack Courtney/Jane. So irritating! And yet, because I was certain this was the book my friends raved about I read on. (LOL!)

As for the story plot itself, at times it lagged a little and the ending was rather predicable, but I found the author's method/answer for how Courtney ended up in another woman's body and in another time and place satisfactory. It worked reminding me a little of the 1980s movie Big.

All in all I found Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict exactly as one might expect of 21st century chic-lit. It's all fluff and entertainment, with the exception of one major lesson that Courtney does finally learn by the end of the novel. Not a stellar read, but definite entertainment.

There is a sequel to the story called Rude Awakenings, which is the story of Jane Mansfield waking up to find herself in the body of Courtney Stone and living in 21st century Los Angeles, which in some ways might prove more interesting than its predecessor, but I haven't decided if I will read it or not. When I get a chance to read another chic-lit novel I plan to pick up the book I originally intended to read -- Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

If you're interested in reading this novel I'd advise borrowing a copy from your library, as I did, versus buying.


Lenore said...

I just ordered this one from the library!

Carrie said...

HA! That's really funny! I honestly think you should link this up to the "I Read It Carnival" at 5 Minutes for Books because you sorta did end up reading this based on recommendations - even though there was a screw up. That's really funny. But! It enabled me to learn about THIS book so I'm equally appreciative, as amused.

I'm with you on your feelings towards Jane Austen. I've read the books and they are enjoyable and fun. I'll watch the A&E version of P&P but I don't get the hoopla surrounding the pond scene.

Glad to note a kindred spirit in the mix. ;)

S. Mehrens said...

Carrie, thanks for the tip. I'd not really paid attention to the "I Read It Carnival" (I know terrible considering I'm a faithful Nightstand poster). I didn't realize it had to do with reading books based upon recomendation. I'll definitely check it out. :)

Kerrie said...

Sarah - - I have an award for you here

Beth said...

I found this book very annoying and was disappointed in it. I have come to the conclusion that I don't care for mixing Jane Austen's world with ours today.

Cheryl said...

Hi Sarah, I really appreciate you writing these reviews. I wanted to get to know you better - at the Book Teas - and that just did not happen. My schedule would not allow it.
You spend many hours not just reading but putting to 'paper' your reviews. I look forward to each entry.
After I move, I am looking forward to life slowing down a bit and I hopefully will do a book blog - you inspire me. I need to get over my intimidation and just do it, as they say.

laurs said...

I liked Rude Awakenings much more than I liked Confessions, but I found that part of that was having the backstory of the first. At the end of the day, neither one is a terrible read, and the one makes you appreciate the other. Enjoy :)