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5.0 out of 5 starsTime travelling!
Reviewed in Canada on March 8, 2011
I have always loved reading historical stories written in the Victorian/Regency Era, and this story provides another look at what everyday life is like during those times. The adventures and stories make me feel like I've travelled back in time.
I'm fond of Jane Austen myself, and I was intrigued by the premise, an obsessive reader finding herself in that world. The story starts with a promising beginning, as Courtney wakes up to unfamiliar faces in the world she's dreamed about, only they're insisting she's sick and needs to let the doctor cut on her with his razor for awhile. The situation is well presented, with a comical twist, and I was able to simultaneously laugh at Courtney while sympathising with her.
Unfortunately, this is the best scene in the novel. A lot of the situations and characters Courtney comes across should have been familiar to someone who claims to have read Pride and Prejudice twenty times, but she's apparently either self-absorbed or thick-headed enough to have missed those parts of the stories. She's completely unaware that it's considered a big deal if people knock boots before they get married until the end of the book. I'm pretty sure even casual fans, whose impressions of Jane Austen's novels consist entirely of Colin Firth prancing around in ruffly collars picked up that little piece of history, so I'm not entirely sure what Courtney's problem is.
Actually, I take that back. Courtney has a lot of problems, not just one, and they add up to her being an unsympathetic character. She comes to the conclusion early on that she's caught in someone else's life, but she really doesn't care about the effect her actions might have on the person returning to that life, since she'll be back in her modern apartment by then. In fact, it's not until the end that she decides maybe she should consider how her actions affect other people, and she can't exactly claim ignorance when she's been expressly warned about the things she does before she does them. Then she makes the same mistakes over and over. The combination of idiocy and self-absorption had me banging my head against the wall through most of the book.
The prose is written in first person, present tense, which was an interesting choice, especially considering this is a story that deals with time travel. Since the novel's "hook" is following a modern girl into the past, the first person narrative makes sense, but I'm not convinced the present tense was the natural choice for a story like this one.
Rigler has done her research on the time period and on Austen's novels in particular, but her knowledge and premise fall flat when she tries too hard to draw comparisons between modern attitudes and those of Austen's time, creating a very inconsistent set of scenarios, all tied up with a confounding ending.
It's too bad, really. From the title and concept, I really wanted to like the book. I get annoyed when something with potential goes horribly, horribly wrong, and this book had my annoyance levels going through the roof. This is not a book I will be keeping on my shelf.
Maybe I read to many fantasy novels and watched too many Sci-fi shows, but while this was a fun book with a great premise, I found the lack of details regarding the 'hows' of time travel disappointing. I'm not sure how Courtney ended up in Jane's body' Or what happened to Jane during that time ' especially since it was Jane who wished she was someone else. The final chapter didn't really wrap things up for me, and if anything, it left me with more questions.
It would have been great if we could see Jane's experiences during our time as well. And all that self-discovery about Wes ' where did that go? I just felt like I was left hanging'
1.0 out of 5 starsConfusions of a Jane Austen Addict
Reviewed in Canada on April 13, 2009
If anyone else out there is going to take on Jane Austen in another chick-lit format, here's a few thoughts from someone who loves Jane Austen's novels:
Don't do it! I beg you. For those who love Jane Austen, just keep rereading her novels and don't waste your time on poorly written stuff like this. I won't do it anymore. Paul Newman is famous for the comment (when talking about his wife Joanne Woodward) but it applies here, too, "Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?" If you've got Jane Austen on your bookshelves, why go out and buy something of a much poorer quality?
I see there is a sequel coming. Marketing another chick-lit book like this one -- where the characters are two dimensional, where the story is a limp and confused facsimile of Jane Austen's -- and the humour (and dialogue) is utterly clichéd and ham-fisted -- seems to be merely one more attempt to grab more cash using the name and work of a great writer.
As a time travel book, it is a confused mess, really. If she ties up all the dangling ends in the second book, I won't find out. I won't be buying it.
Jane Austen wrote, "My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company."
I am absolutely certain that, Jane Austen, even with her wry humour and understanding of human frailties would not, for one second, find this book good company.
3.0 out of 5 starsDeja vu - Lost in Austen and now this
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 7, 2008
A parcel of books from Amazon arrived the other day and inside it was a a paperback published in the USA, which I had totally forgotten ordering some time ago called Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. I can only assume the title struck a chord as I know nothing else about it.
I open it up and what do I find? Courtney goes to sleep one night and wakes up to find she is inhabiting another body - one Jane Mansfield and has been transported back in time. Having just watched the first episode on TV this week of Lost in Austen, I felt a strong sense of deja vu. In the TV series, the time travelling heroine is Amanda Price - distressing lack or originality with the names; perhaps we could have had Emma Wentworth or Marianne Fairfax, or have Fanny and add the name of one of the maids at Longbourn - Hill. Fanny Hill, er perhaps not....
So which came first I ask myself, this book or the TV series or did reading this book give somebody the idea? The heroine here lives in Los Angeles, in Lost in Austen in Hammersmith. Only thing they have in common is that they both come from a big, sprawling, noisy, urban background and are transported back into Austen land, the land of country houses, embroidery and walking in the shrubbery.
The whole book is a bit of a hoot and enormous fun and while it is not going to set the world alight it is hugely entertaining and I can recommend it as a relaxing read and one which will not upset Jane purists (I consider myself one but after reading this and watching and liking Lost in Austen, I fear I have been guilty of presumption).
The heroine, Courtney, is a bit of a loser when it comes to men back in her own time and Los Angeles, having discovered her fiance playing away just before they are due to marry (he rather fancies the lady making their cake and is caught displaying more interest than is healthy in her royal icing) and is suffering from low self esteem and locked in the Bridget Jones Why Can't I find a Man syndrome? Seems to me that this kind of heroine seems to turn to Jane Austen and yearns after Darcy and Courtney is no different.
At first totally amazed and frightened to find there is no waking up from her dream she decides to make the best of it. Her father, a Mr Bennett figure married to a Mrs Bennett figure (only she is ghastly and malevolent, not just silly) is fond of her and as Courtney has never known her father, she begins to feel affection and love for him. She is being pursued by Mr Edgworth (no relation to Maria we are informed) but hears that he is a bit of a libertine and is frightened to become involved in another dead end relationship.
There is an amusing episode in the book when she hears a 'Miss Austen' being served in a shop in Milsom Street and races after her to tell her 'I love your books and am a big fan' and starts to chat to her about Mansfield Park which has yet to be published. Courtney then goes on to tell her that in 200 years time here books will be universally popular, scholars will discuss her plots and style and that there will be film and TV adaptations of her books and so on. Of course, Jane Austen thinks she is dealing with a mad woman and hastens away as quickly as possible. A conceit, but very funny.
It all ends happily, if improbably, with Courtney deciding to stop being a wimp and to take control of her life and marry the man of her choice. But where does she find her happiness? Longbourn or LA?
You will have to read the book to find out. Great fun.
3.0 out of 5 starsLA girl meets Regency England in this literary culture clash!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 15, 2011
I was very interested in reading this after enjoying 'Lost in Austen' on television a few years ago. The idea really appealed to me - we may romanticise the England of Jane Austen's novels, but how would a 21st-century woman REALLY fare if she was faced with the realities of Regency life? In that sense, Rigler's novel definitely hit the spot. It tells the fantastical tale of one Courtney Stone, a feisty LA Austenophile who has just lost her fiancé Frank and her best friend Wes in one catastrophic betrayal - then to top it all off, wakes up one morning in the body of Jane Mansfield, a Regency girl with quite enough troubles of her own...
There were definitely good points and bad points about the book, which is why it landed itself with a solid three-star rating. The good? Well, it's great fun! It has all the treasured Austen elements - a young woman searching for love, a dashing but suspiciously charming hero, a ridiculous mother, a kindly father - yet it throws a whole new slant on Austen's world, allowing the reader to see the social conventions and home life of a Regency family in all their less-than-romantic glory. This was a world where a bath took hours to prepare, bloodletting was a favoured medical treatment, the toilet was a chamber-pot, people brushed their teeth with gritty tooth powder, and corsets were the way to go. Oh, and after the scene in the `healing' waters of Bath, you'll never see the phrase `taking the waters' in quite the same way again...
Where Rigler really excels is in exploring the role of women in Regency society. Despite her own evident love of Austen's novels, she doesn't mince her words when it comes to the way women were treated in England in Austen's time. The way women are seen as property to be `married off' comes across very clearly, and although Courtney/Jane appreciates the quiet, technology-free way of life (and the excellent food!) she really struggles with the lack of freedom. Everywhere she goes she must be chaperoned; if she so much as looks at a man the wrong way her entire future could be in tatters; when she voices a strong opinion she is considered, at best, scandalous, at worst, insane. It's pretty sobering stuff.
So what did I NOT like about the book? It was a bit bland for me, to be honest. It had some very funny moments, but not enough to make it a really humorous novel. The reason for the Jane-Courtney body swap was muddled and confusing, and considering Courtney's obsession with Austen's novels she made some pretty glaring gaffes on several occasions. Her feelings for Edgeworth (the hero) and her reflections on her friend Wes in LA seemed to change every chapter, without any real driving force. And the ending was atrocious. It comes upon the reader so suddenly, without any real conclusion or explanation, that it weakened the whole thing for me. My verdict? Well, it may not have blown me away, may not have turned my life upside down, may not have completely captured my heart - but it was a fun little girlie read, perfect for a lazy day in the sunshine this summer. And I've already ordered the sequel, 'Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict', about Jane's experience in Courtney's body, which sounds equally intriguing!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 27, 2010
Being a Jane Austen addict myself I thought I would give this book a try. The heroine - Courtney, an all American girl from Los Angeles - wakes up one morning to find herself in the body of an early 19th century woman - Jane Mansfield. As Jane she is recovering from a riding accident. She has to try and learn about her new life and work out how to get back to the 21st century without landing herself in hot water. Fortunately her reading of Jane Austen stands her in good stead.
I found the book intriguing to read and I thought the author conveyed the sense of confusion Courtney/Jane felt very well. How would anyone get on if they were suddenly transported back two hundred years and to an unfamiliar country? The historical details were well done as were the differences in attitudes and behaviour and the way men and women were kept apart. I really cannot say much about the story without giving too much away. Suffice it to say there are some interesting characters and some familiar names to anyone who has read Jane Austen's novels. Worth reading if you like both historical fiction and Jane Austen
2.0 out of 5 starsWriting and style was poor, I felt
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 15, 2016
This was chosen by our book club for this month's read. It was frothy and frivolous and an okay but predictable read to while away a rainy day. Writing and style was poor, I felt, with lots of inconsistencies and loose ends in the narrative. Worth the 1p I spent on a used copy (just about!)
In a way, I wish thatI had not read this book. For me, it rather trivialises the works of Jane Austen, so I have decided to read the two books by her that I have not read. I feel it would be a better use of my time.