Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones

I think I can safely get near my computer to actually spend some time posting something today!  For whatever reason, I've had a headache turned migraine that has been taunting me for days now.  The idea of getting near the computer made me shudder with horror.  After a nice handful of ibuprofen and nursing a big glass of water, I'm doing a lot better and really wanted to get back to reviewing.  Now I can post my review of My Jane Austen Summer before the summer is actually over!

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "A down on her luck woman goes on an Austen-inspired journey of self-discovery in Jones's middling debut. After Lily Berry loses her mother, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and is fired, she finds in her passion for all things Jane Austen (Jane, indeed, is Lily's imaginary friend) an escape route: she travels to England to participate in a Jane Austen re-enacting festival. Full of enthusiasm—but not acting talent—Lily is not embraced by many of the Janeites, but this doesn't prevent her from meeting a charismatic actor, contending with an impossible roommate, and struggling with dark family secrets, all while trying to find the courage to be the protagonist of her own story. While Jones does a credible job of creating a heroine in transition, Lily's process of self-realization isn't nearly as involving as the subplots, which is quite unfortunate, considering how much time is devoted to sussing out her issues."

Review:  My Jane Austen Summer started out like a great, yummy read.  Lily Berry has just broken up with her boyfriend, is feeling completely out of sorts, and turns to an opportunity to travel to England to participate in a Jane Austen festival to save her from her mess of a life.  What's not to love about that kind of premise?  I know I'd love to run off to England to find myself and to revel in Jane Austen a bit more!  Although I thought she was kind of a weepy, pathetic mess at the beginning, I could see that it was a good set up for us to watch the evolution of a character from nauseating sap to a confident woman.  Somehow, I can't really say that happened.  Even now, I'm not sure that Lily Berry is a changed woman, with more confidence.  In fact, once she left the U.S. and we establish the core group of people she is around in England and get to know their stories, it all started to run in way too many directions without resolutions that I was looking for.

One thing that really confused me was the introduction of a Jane Austen-like ghost that often showed up when Lily was doing certain things?  It took me awhile to realize that she really was talking about a non-speaking ghost-like figure, and not just an internal, "What would Jane Austen do" sort of query.  It just felt strange, and I'm not sure that we needed a ghost Austen to propel the story in any way.  Also, there were too many odd conflicts.  Had we focused on two or three of them, the story might have felt much more driven by a compelling character story.  As it stands, having the money issues, ex-boyfriend/lacking esteem issue, crazy roommate issue, ghost Austen issue, dead mother and lousy dad issue, quiet new guy she liked issue, wanting to act issue, the festival losing money and wanting to help issue, and so on and so forth were just too many to follow.  You would just get into one of these, and the story would switch gears.  It was just a bit too much, and I genuinely wanted to see how one or two of these were resolved, but not all at once.  In fact, I don't know that any of these were resolved, but just lived through.  Let's be honest, if you introduce love interests, you generally like to see the heroine of the book either completely get over them or find someone else who is better than the first guy.  At the end of the book, I had to flip back to make sure I read things correctly, because I wasn't sure what happened.

In the end, the book seemed to be more about character development than resolution.  We're all a work in progress, but I suppose I just wanted more resolved and settled by the end.  I really loved the premise and even liked the subtlety of the writing, which reminded me a bit of Austen's tone, but with the idea of an Austen themed novel or even Mansfield Park take, I expected a stronger connection to the main character and a romantic resolution that felt satisfying.  Overall, with the Austen themes and personal issues of the main character, I wanted it to work, but it somehow lost me by the end.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a copy provided by Amazon Vine as part of their reviewer program.


  1. I appreciate your honest, thorough review. If I can be honest myself, I found the end of the story and the focus on the character development the points of strength of this novel- which I read not long ago- together with its witty tone and the subtlety of the writing. On the whole it was "out of the chorus", something totally different from the many Austen - inspired novels I had read until that moment.

  2. I reviewed this book in June, and you seem to have had the same experience I had with the novel! I thought I was in the minority, so it's nice to see that you feel the same.

  3. That sounds like kind of a mess.

  4. Maria--Really? I must have missed it all! :) I just felt myself more and more frustrated by all the divergent threads running through the story. Honestly, I just would have liked more focus on some of the conflict from home, the romantic interest at the festival, and left the ghost Austen, money woes, and mess of characters in the background. I have to agree that it is an interesting, new Austen twist. I think there is probably a market for more like this, don't you think?

    JP--Oh, good! I'm a full-fledged member of the everything Austen genre, but this one didn't nail things down enough for me. I'll have to slip over and see your review. :)

    Heidenkind--It was way too all over the place. I should look up author interviews to see what the author was going for?

  5. I've had this on my shelf for awhile now and I guess I just need to be in the right mood, because I haven't picked it up yet! I appreciate the honest review.
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