Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend: A Secret Diary by Cora Harrison

Jenny Cooper, cousin to Jane Austen, records the occurrences of the Spring of 1791. When Jane become seriously ill at boarding school, Jenny risks going out at night unchaperoned to send a letter to Jane's mother. After being removed from the school, Jane and Jenny spend the Spring at Jane's family home, having a grand old time visiting and painting and playing piano and going to balls. Until! The one person who knows of Jenny's nighttime escapades come to town. Will he ruin her reputation? Or will it all end happily ever after?

I might have made it sound more dramatic than it really is.

First of all, I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend is a terrible title. Amazingly boring. I understand you want to make the Jane Austen connection clear, as that's the kind of reader you're trying to ensnare, but surely there must have been something better. Seriously, anything. Put the Jane Austen part in the subtitle. I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend sounds like a painfully dry confessional. It's just not appealing.

That being said, this was a fun historical fiction read. Anyone who enjoys Jane Austen will get a kick out of this. You'll definitely get more of a kick out of it if you've read some Jane Austen though. Many of the characters Jenny and Jan meet clearly were set up to "influence" the characters Jane would latter write into her famous novels.

I appreciated that it was written very much in the style of the time period. So that means, nothing very exciting happens. Because life just wasn't that exciting for women. They paint and play piano and take their walks and make dresses to wear to balls and dance with men and then at the end Jenny marries a gentleman. So if you're looking for historical fiction that reads like a Gossip Girl book this is not the book for you and you best check out the Luxe series. I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend, however, was an accurate portrayal of what life was like for a young lady who had very little money and everything depended on her reputation. So, it was like a Jane Austen novel, only simpler and more accessible. Nice job.

It was fun to see Jane portrayed as kind of a wild child (wild child relatively speaking, of course) who totally accepted that she needed to marry money but also pushed against her daughterly duties. She wanted to be a writer, not a common job for a women, and was constantly making up stories and putting on a show and making people laugh.


I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend came out on September 28th.


  1. I did want to portray Jane as something out of the ordinary in this era of very strict rules for feminine behaviour. Thanks for appreciating this.


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