Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review - Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston

Critically acclaimed and award-winning -- but hardly bestselling -- author Georgina Jackson can't get past the first chapter of her second book. When she receives an urgent email from her agent, Georgina is certain it's bad news. Shockingly, she's offered a commission to complete a newly discovered manuscript by a major nineteenth-century author. Skeptical at first about her ability to complete the manuscript, Georgina is horrified to know that the author in question is Jane Austen.

Torn between pushing through or fleeing home to America, Georgina relies on the support of her banker-turned-science student roommate, Henry, and his quirky teenage sister, Maud -- a serious Janeite. With a sudden financial crisis looming, the only way Georgina can get by is to sign the hugely lucrative contract and finish the book. But first she has to admit she's never actually read Jane Austen!

Review: Spoilers Ahead

I've been sitting here for the last fifteen minutes trying to find a pretty & poetic way of saying: I didn't like it. At. ALL.

Aston's Writing Jane Austen has the potential to be a lovely tribute to the subject and her work, but with undeveloped characters, rushed plotlines and lack of conflict, this story falls flat.

The protagonist herself spends nearly the entire first half of the book whining about how she can't accomplish the task she's been given because she's not familiar with Austen's work and has no desire to be. After a few pages of her finally reading and falling in love with the books, she spends nearly the entire second half whining about how she can't recreate Austen's voice and that she's suffering from writer's block. She suffers from no particular conflict. There are no obstacles in her way. She just doesn't want to do it.


The cast of characters surrounding Georgina make the story a bit more interesting and that may be a slight exaggeration. They each have their own problems. Her landlord, Henry, has a cheating girlfriend referenced to, but never confronted. (We actually never meet this character at all.) His little sister has runaway from boarding school because she's 'different' exactly, we don't know. Throw in the cook & her sudden romance and you have a bunch of story lines never fully explored.

All in all, this book dragged and dragged until the last fifteen pages, where it seems Aston realized she'd better wrap it up. At this point, everything is tied in a messy little bow. Nothing explained, nothing given.

Lit Snit Verdict: D--The potential for a great story is there but after reading Georgina whine about Austen for nearly an entire novel, I almost didn't want anything more to do with Austen OR Georgina.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I felt the same way about Mr. Darcy's Daughters. I wanted to like it, but just couldn't get past the fact that I really didn't like any of the characters. This kind of sounds semi-autobiographical, in fact, given that her main career is writing Austen spin-offs. I get that we all want Jane Austen's work to live on, but there's so many other ways to go about it than actually re-writing her original work. And attempting it in her own voice no less..

    Darcy's Story is the only one I've even been able to get through in the Austen spin-off genre. That and Darcy and Elizabeth, but only because it was such soft-core porn that I was shocked into finishing it.

    You should try The Family Fortune by Laurie Horowitz. It fulfills that Austen appeal but is modern enough and different enough you don't feel like Jane Austen is rolling over in her grave as you read it.