May 27, 2008

Memoirs of Fiction

Syrie James' The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen is a fantastic addition to all things Jane. The novel invents the discovery of Jane Austen's memoirs in an attic chest and spins a artistic web that intertwines the beauty of Austen's novels with historical truths and imagined fictions.

***Spoiler Alert***

The memoir is discovered in an old seaman's chest, which has been bricked up into a wall--perhaps by Jane's sister Cassandra. Many of the facts we know about Jane's life are peppered throughout the book, but the crux of the novel for me was the way in which James easily winds in bits of Austen's novel, Sense and Sensibility.

Like Elinor, Jane falls in love with a gentleman who matches her wit and humor--Mr. Frederick Ashford. Ashford is a man of great fortune who is taken with Jane almost instantly. And we wondered why Jane could write such romantic novels without having experienced love or passion. This fiction sheds light on a possible reason why Jane succumbed to spinsterhood, or should I say chose to remain a single woman.

Ashford is not only resembles Edward Ferrars, but he also bears some of the similar burdens of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, though not in personality, but in familial burdens that come with wealth.

Tragically, Jane does not get the happy endings her readers so desire or that she provides to her readers without a second thought. However, she does get the passion, love, and kisses she deserves for her brilliance, her humor, her love of life, and her devotion.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I don't say this often, but this is one of those books that must go into the pile that I will read again and again in the coming years. Perhaps after re-reading various Austen novels and following supplemental novels with her characters as seen through the eyes of contemporary authors, like Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange.

After the fiasco that was The Jane Austen Book Club, I was a bit tentative about picking up another contemporary book about Austen and her characters, but James does a beautiful job weaving together elements of fact, fiction, and imagination, which made this reader believe in the truth of her fiction.

Also Reviewed Here:

Book Escape


Anna said...

I'm going to add this to my list of must reads. Sounds like a really good book.

Serena said...

This was such a great read. I was having a great time recognizing the fiction parts from Austen's books and recognizing the truths about her life. It really almost made you forget she was a spinster and believed in the great love affair.

James is a great author. I hope we can see more of her work soon.

Suey said...

Adding to my list as well!

Serena said...

I hope you both enjoy the book as much as I did. Please let me know when your reviews are up and I will add them to my post.

Katherine said...

I enjoyed this book too! I checked it out from the library, but I may need to own my own copy. Did you know that James is writing another book, about Charlotte Bronte?

Serena said...


I did not know that she was writing a book about Charlotte Bronte. Thanks for the heads up.

If you have a link to a review of this book on your blog, I can add it to the post for you.

Anonymous said...

I read this one a couple of months ago and reviewed it on my blog. Although, it was the beginning of my blogging and the review is quite short.

However, I did enjoy this one and have read several in the "Jane Austen" genre. Check out some of my other reviews.