Although I enjoyed this book I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as James’ The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. I’m not sure if James’ skills as an author increased, but I’m actually reading them in reverse order of her publishing the novels culminating in The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë which is next on my reading list.
However, as with Missing Manuscript, James’ has a distinct ability to write as and embody Jane Austen. Many Austen fan-fiction novelists are able to mimic Austen, but I don’t feel are able to get into her psyche as well as James’ has shown she is capable over the last two novels. James takes snippets of fact and builds amazingly detailed stories around them and as a reader I couldn’t help but appreciate her ability to spin a believable story around the most basic and minimal facts.
One thing I really appreciated about this novel and that James carried through to her second novel, is the idea that this is ‘real’ mixed with fiction. In this novel there is a note from the editor, a fictional character, about the facts of Austen’s life and the details surrounding the discovery of the memoirs. This adds a sense of reality to the memoirs and provides a much-needed point of departure from fact and fiction and the blurring of the lines. As a side note, the ‘editor’ of this novel makes a brief appearance in The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and I LOVE when there is a tie in like this, especially when it’s jokingly done.
If you read the closing line (highlight it), you’ll see what I’m talking about. The ‘editor’ of the memoirs makes the reader question whether the memoirs are actually real or whether Austen wrote them to entertain herself and perhaps to flesh out ideas for her other novels. Throughout the ‘memoirs’ there are instances which mirror plot points in at least five, if not all six, of her published novels. I think it’s great James was able to incorporate the novel plot points into this fictionalized account of a few years of Jane Austen’s life. It shows not only that the author is familiar with Austen’s works, but that she was able to incorporate them into Austen’s life and seamlessly thread the two together. Just read the two additional quotes I added below.
Recommendation: Although I thoroughly enjoyed this, I would recommend The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen over this one. There were great characters in both, but I feel the author matured and wrote a better novel with her third ‘fan-fiction’ novel and that it is the best I’ve read so far.
Opening Line: “Jane Austen, who gave the world six beloved novels, was a self-avowed, addicted letter-writer; many of her letters have been preserved and provide valuable insight into the authors mind, character and private life.”
Closing Line: “But another theory, which cannot be ignored, can best be summed up in the words of her young nephew James-Edward, who so solemnly asked his aunt Jane, on that golden morning at Steventon, ‘Do you mean to say, that if I believe in your story as you have told it, then it is as good as if it were true?'” (Whited out.)
Additional quotes from The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
“Misery, I discovered, is a great inducement to art. Whereas my previous confusion and sadness had inhibited my creativity, now my ability to write returned with a vengeance. Never before had I felt such a burning desire, nay, a requirement to put pen to paper. For days, I wrote in a blind rage, pausing only when need overcame me to eat or drink or sleep.” (158)
“I always say that verbosity is a great sin, as it can prove most tiresome to those who are prevailed upon to listen, particularly if the speaker is not an educated person, like myself, with an agility of mind and tongue, and an extensive knowledge of the world, which can provide a great variety of interesting topics from which to chuse. In the absence of such facility, I believe one should only speak when one has something of great importance to say, and even then, one should chuse one’s words very carefully.” (202)