Courtney Stone, a devoted Jane Austen fan, wakes up one day to find herself in 19th Century England, in the body of Jane Mansfield, a young lady living a life right out of an Austen novel. At first convinced it’s a dream, and then realizing she’s not going to wake up from it anytime soon, she settles into the world of Jane Austen, and fights off bacteria, suitors, ennui, and feminist outrage while she’s at it.
It starts off so well, but quickly became a bit tiresome for me. Courtney gives Obsessive/Compulsives a good name as she blathers on and on about why am I here? and how can I get back?:
“So what will become of who I really am? What will become of that bundle of memories called Courtney, my real self that resides, hidden from view, inside this body? Will I/it slowly disappear, inexorably surrender to the onslaught of synaptic activities, the cumulative effect of cellular memory that is now evolving into conscious thought?”
And so on, ad infinitum. Slap! Slap! I imagine myself doing, as I cry out: Get over it! As the fortune-teller she meets says, “be where you are!”
The book is not all that painful, thankfully. Some of it is quite insightful and humorous, as when Courtney/Jane cogitates about blind dates:
“In fact, I spent many hours afterward depressed because some colorless twit seemed to want to end the evening as quickly as I did. After all, what kind of a loser couldn’t even captivate a colorless twit?”
She goes on:
“Blind dates and setups of all kinds are completely useless, I long ago decided. Most intelligent men and women like to go forth into the world and stalk their own prey, choose their own mirrors of dysfunction, and repeat their own patterns of abusive relationships, without the well-meaning but futile efforts of friends.”
Clever. Funny. And the description of England in Jane Austen’s time likewise is often clever and funny. But there’s a bit too much angst, and the ending might cause one to throw the book down and shout READER BETRAYAL!
There is a sequel: Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, although I’ve heard rumors that the ending of the first book still goes unresolved. Nevertheless, I’ll pick it up if it crosses my path; even a frustrating flirtation with Jane Austen’s world is worth a quick read like this one.
Evaluation: The beginning and ending drove me a bit crazy, but I liked the middle enough that I will look for the sequel.
Published by Dutton, 2007