Thursday, November 12, 2009

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

"That's when I decide to order myself a large clam-and-garlic pizza and reread Pride and Prejudice. I would self-medicate with fat, carbohydrates, and Jane Austen, my number one drug of choice, my constant companion through every breakup, every disappointment, every crisis. Men might come and go, but Jane Austen was always there. In sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part."
~Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler

English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817) published her books anonymously, so she was not well known or recognized for her talent as a writer during her lifetime. After her nephew published A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869, Austen's work was introduced to a larger audience. By the 1940s, Austen was regarded as a great writer of English literature by academia. Within the next decade, a Janeite fan culture began, which now includes JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) and numerous websites devoted exclusively to Jane Austen, such as Jane Austen Gazetteer and simply, Austen.com. Stephanie's Written Word is currently hosting a special challenge for Austen admirers, The Everything Austen Challenge. Jane Austen even has her own Facebook page, with over 50,000 fans!

Last month, I won an autographed copy of the LA Times bestseller, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, published in 2007, on Naida's blog, the bookworm. Laurie Viera Rigler, the author, inscribed it with a personal message to me. One of the perks of visiting book blogs is winning books. (Please don't be jealous because these book giveaways are frequent. I host and post about some, too.) This book fits the Women Unbound Reading Challenge in several ways. Briefly, it was written by a woman, and is about a woman writer, social commentator, and early feminist, Jane Austen. It's also more generally about the roles of women in different eras.

As I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I immersed myself in the past with Courtney Stone, the main character, a present-day Jane Austen addict, who awakens bewildered one morning in a bedchamber in Regency England. Along with Courtney, I was transported to a different place and time. I imagined myself living in this past era and enjoying the pampering, such as being brought a tray of light refreshment while in bed, or having my hair done by someone else on a daily basis. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is quite a fun book to read. Humor abounds due to Courtney's surprising situation: she's a modern woman with modern ideas who suddenly and inexplicably finds herself transported back in time to an age full of lace and romance, but without many of the creature comforts and freedoms we take for granted today. A bath is a rare luxury in this time period, so body odor is omnipresent and unyielding. Barnes, her chambermaid, helps Courtney with the time-consuming productions of getting dressed and undressed, out of necessity, as laces and buttons are often located in the back of garments. (No thank you, I'm used to the ease of dressing myself in warm Southern CA.) In the romance department, Courtney meets the dashing Mr. Edgeworth, but isn't sure what to think or do, in an age when women are supposed to be demure and repressed. Courtney quickly perceives that women have very little freedom and choice in this world. They're constrained by society in many ways, and considered to be old maids if they're not married before the age of 25. Because career possibilities for women were so limited, women of this era were dependent on marriage for social status as well as economic security, a subject which Jane Austen herself wrote much about.

I appreciated the humor and cleverness in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, but was glad that my excursion to Regency England was fictional, and that I live in this age.

Special thanks to Laurie Viera Rigler for sending me this autographed book.

22 comments:

  1. I won a copy of this book, too, so I'm glad to see it's good. I suspect I'll be like you and be thankful that I live now instead of back then.

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  2. For some reason I have trouble with Jane Austen sequels and spinoffs. Maybe it's just because while I LIKE Austen, she's not my favorite author either, you know? Sigh.

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  3. Sounds good, but I bet it really doesn't compare with Jane Austen's wonderful works. I'm a huge fan of her books.

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  4. I am so glad that you liked the book and that it was such a great read for you! I particularly like that it relates so much about daily living during those times. Great review! I am going to be grabbing a copy of this book.

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  5. I learned a lot from your post about Jane Austin's rise to literary prominence-I ejoyed your treatment of day to day life issues from the book-I have not yet read any Jane Austin spin off works (figuring If I am going to do that just read the real thing like Amanda said) but I well might try this one now.

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  6. bermudaonion, I think you'll really enjoy this book. I hope you'll review it on your site.

    Amanda and Eileen, this book's very funny and it made me want to reread the real Austen.

    Zibilee, the descriptions and details of daily life are brought to life in this book. :)

    Mel, this was the first Austen spin-off that I read. I'd like to read the sequel by this author. She's a very sharp writer.

    Thank you all for your comments. More are welcomed.

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  7. This sure sounds like a fun read! I've got it on my TBR list but I'm not sure when I'll get to it. Great review!

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  8. I loved this book too. I won an autographed sequel and really need to get to it!

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  9. Wow! It is true it is great to win books at giveaways. I don't know about anyone, but I feel all of a sudden Lucky!
    This one sure sounds good. The humor part is what I like really. But like You I am glad I live in this century.

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  10. I have heard such good things about this book and I did read Naida review too. I am glad to hear you enjoyed it.

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  11. Great review! You've made me want to dig out my copy and finally read it.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  12. Sam, I think you'll really enjoy this book.

    Laura, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the sequel (if you post them).

    Veens, we book bloggers are lucky!! :)

    Vivienne, thank you for taking the time to read our reviews.

    Anna, I think you'll enjoy it a lot. It's a quick read, too.

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  13. Glad you enjoyed it! I like that quote you chose, I used the same on in my review of this book too :O)

    I thought this book was really cute, and I lol when Courtney runs into the real Jane Austen.
    I do agree, I wouldn't want to live in Regency England either :)

    Theres a film, called Becoming Jane, which was really good, based on Jane Austens life. Theres another one called Miss Austen Regrets. Both show how she didnt want to marry for money, she wanted to marry for true love.

    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  14. Would prefer to finish the real Jane (she's become quite an industry, hasn't she?) before tackling any of the spinoffs. Only two to go...
    Book sounds interesting, but I'd definitely pass on that pizza.

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  15. Naida, it's a funny and fitting quote. Thanks for hosting this giveaway. :)

    ds, Confessions complements a collection of Austen works. Hope you will read this fun book!

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  16. I read this book and really enjoyed it too!

    I have an award for you here!
    http://steelergirl83.blogspot.com/2009/11/award.html

    xoxo~ Renee

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  17. Thanks for the award, Renee, and thanks to everyone who commented.

    More comments welcomed.

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  18. Glad you enjoyed it! I read this one and liked it too, although I found the second book gave more answers, while being also fun!

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  19. Hi Suko-

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I feel like I would have come found you soon enough, if you hadn't come by first as we seem to "know" the same people in blogosphere!

    I started watching the PBS movie based on the first book in this series and couldn't finish it, so I think it turned me off the book. But then everyone liked the movie, so I thought maybe I should have given it another chance. Now it's on my netflix queue. Still not sure about the book, though!

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  20. Aarti, I was initially a bit skeptical, too, but this book drew me in quickly and rewarded me with a great deal of humor. I didn't even know there was a movie!

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  21. That's quite a hilarious passage you quoted, it does sound like a fun book :) My cousin is also somewhat of a Jane Austen addict, not that she's actually read all of Austen's books but she really digs that "age full of lace and romance". To a not well-informed male reader, it might be easy to ignore Austen's works as strictly for the girls. But I can see now why her works are acclaimed classics. From what I gather, she had been a pioneering voice for women in her time, discussing through fiction some themes and issues that are now considered of high importance for the women of today. I'm going to try to read Pride and Prejudice next year and I've got a feeling I'll seriously enjoy it.

    Lovely review Suko :)

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  22. Mark David, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on Pride and Prejudice. Thanks for your comment!

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