Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict is the complementary story to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. In that first book, Courtney Stone, a 32 year old from the year 2009, wakes up in 1813 Somerset, England in the body of Jane Mansfield, daughter of a gentleman. Rude Awakenings tells what happens to Jane, who wakes up in Courtney’s body in 2009. The books can be read independently but probably flow better in order.
Both young ladies, rabid fans of Jane Austen, wished for different lives, and both hit their heads at the same time. Thus, we presume, some sort of cosmic Karma has enabled this switch. Like the movie “Back to the Future,” these books focus on the humorous confusions that result from dislocations in time. Coming to 2009 from 1813, there is plenty to astound a person, from televisions, computers, telephones, cars, and airplanes to the astonishing change in manners and morality, especially for a young woman. And there is no shortage of opportunity for satire either. One uproarious passage has Courtney’s friends taking her to a therapist; after Jane/Courtney goes on about how she is really someone else from the year 1813, lost in the future, and doesn’t know how to get back, the therapist says: “Soooo… how do you feel about that?”
Courtney, ostensibly recovering from a severe concussion, is attended to by Wes (the best friend of her ex-fiance), old girlfriends Paula and Anna, and a new girlfriend Deepa (who speaks with a reassuring British accent). She also finds herself reluctantly feeling responsive to the importunings of the ex, Frank, whom everyone (including Courtney) now recognizes as a scumbag.
It is Anna, who is into “new-age crap” as Paula calls it, who gives Courtney the most to think about when she says:
“I believe that each of us has the power to create heaven or hell, right here, right now.”
Reflecting on this later, Courtney, always the Austenophile, says:
“Each of us has the power to create heaven or hell, right here, right now. I do not know how I have come to be in this time, in this place, in this body. But I do know that any place where there are six novels by the author of Pride and Prejudice must be a very special sort of heaven.”
When Courtney expresses angst about how to understand what has happened to her, her friend Deepa takes her to see a fortune teller, who turns out to be the same one she saw as Jane back in 1813. The woman tries to teach her that knowledge about ourselves and others is structured by preconceptions. To truly know someone, you need to be open to fresh perspectives. That is to say, like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, one must let go of ones’ pride and discard ones’ prejudices, not only to know others truly, but also to know ourselves and our true desires.
She also teaches Courtney not to be intimidated by the nature of 21st Century relationships. Even if someone has loved before, it doesn’t preclude loving again:
“When you unite with your true love, it will be as if he is your first, and you his. In the eyes of love, there is no past.”
But can Jane/Courtney somehow reconcile her knowledge of who she really is with her new persona, and overcome the mistakes of both of those lives to make a new beginning? Or will she get cold feet and go back, with the help of the fortune teller? In short, will she create a hell, or can she create a heaven?
Evaluation: I liked this book much better than Confessions, in part because this story tended to tie up the lose ends left by the first story (and I do like all the ends tied!). It was also fun to see Jane/Courtney’s reaction to all the modern conveniences (such as toilets!) and watch her figure out how to use them. And looking at such modern wonders (electricity!) through Jane’s eyes helps you appreciate them so much more!
I envied Jane for having the opportunity to create a new life as Courtney, combining their personalities to make a kinder, better Courtney and a looser, more compromising Jane. It’s sort of like having a rewind button but with an editing capability. What a lovely premise!
Published by Dutton Adult, 2009