I pretty much love all things Jane Austen: originals, remakes, mash ups (for the most part), modernizations, etc. Several months ago, I saw Writing Jane Austen floating around the blogosphere and had to give it a try. Reviews seemed to be a bit mixed, so I was interested to find out why.
Jane Austen for the twenty-first century! Mayhem ensues when a struggling young writer is chosen to complete an unfinished manuscript by a certain famous novelist...
Critically acclaimed and award-winning -- but hardly bestselling -- author Georgina Jackson can't get past the first chapter of her second book. When she receives an urgent email from her agent, Georgina is certain it's bad news. Shockingly, she's offered a commission to complete a newly discovered manuscript by a major nineteenth-century author. Skeptical at first about her ability to complete the manuscript, Georgina is horrified to know that the author in question is Jane Austen.
Torn between pushing through or fleeing home to America, Georgina relies on the support of her banker-turned-science student roommate, Henry, and his quirky teenage sister, Maud -- a serious Janeite. With a sudden financial crisis looming, the only way Georgina can get by is to sign the hugely lucrative contract and finish the book. But first she has to admit she's never actually read Jane Austen!"
Review: For about the first 50 to 75 pages of the novel, I was completely engaged in "Georgie's" (as she was nicknamed) process for completing an unfinished Jane Austen novel. There was a lot of academic speak that reminded me so much of college and grad school, that it was fun to meander back into that world again. However, once Georgie sat down to read all of Jane Austen's work, which she did back to back to back, the story felt a little pained. In some ways, the magic that she felt in reading all of Austen's work fizzled out when she forced herself to put pen to paper. I loved hearing about her own reading of the novels, although I found it so strange that she hadn't ever read them and that she managed to stay up night and day to read them all in one sitting. I seriously wonder if that's even possible?
Honestly, this book feels more about the sometime painful process of an author, who feels they must connect directly to what they are going to write, than about anything to do with Jane Austen. While Georgie does travel to Austen locations and reads the novels, this really was a story about the writing and publishing process. Even the love story in the novel was a brief afterthought to the mental and physical process of writing a novel.
The novel was engaging in some places, with some more drawn out scenes of pained writing and publishing anguish. Although I can't say that I wouldn't recommend this story, I would warn that it felt like a book for the reader who is interested in what it might take to read. Although, even having said that, it scared me away from ever trying my hand at my own novel! The writing is good, even if the tone is often somewhat sad. If you're at all curious about writing and publishing, especially novels that are nearing Austen's field, you might try this one out for yourself.
*FTC Disclosure: This review was based on a library copy of the novel.