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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Click through to read my full thoughts on this Austenesque timeslip novel, and make sure you check back later today for a giveaway! And while you're at it, don't forget to peruse through our Janeite Conversations, past and present, for Laurie's hilarious take on all things Austen!

Historical/Time Slip, 304 pages
Published August 2nd 2007 by Dutton

In this Jane Austen inspired comedy, love story, and exploration of identity and destiny, a modern LA girl wakes up as an Englishwoman in Austen's time.

After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?

Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman's life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her love of Jane Austen has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who fills Courtney's borrowed brain with confusing memories that are clearly not her own.

Try as she might to control her mind and find a way home, Courtney cannot deny that she is becoming this other woman and being this other woman is not without its advantages: Especially in a looking-glass Austen world. Especially with a suitor who may not turn out to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict has been on my to-read list for ages; every year when August rolls around, I always think: this is the year. And then time and my procrastination skills prove me wrong. But this year, when I was prepping (after much procrastination, of course) for Austen in August, I pulled a stack of books off of my JAFF shelf, Confessions among them, and read a tiny bit of each to see what would pull me in and get me psyched for the workload that is AIA -- and this was the book that did it.

Laurie Viera Rigler's take on Austen addiction is hilarious (something our email chains and her Convo answers should have clued me into), lively and quick. I was hesitant, at first, based on Courtney's insistence on thinking everything was a dream— it was a gag that just went on too long (though I get it, because were I to find myself in the same improbably situation, rational being that I am, I would think it was a dream or absolute f*cking insanity, tbh), and it just felt too much like the plot device that it was. That said, as a plot device, it worked. It gives Courtney an in to the world, and an excuse to embrace it -- because what's it matter, if it's just a dream? -- and it saves Courtney from the other insanity of just glibly accepting her situation, which frankly, would have been ridiculous (and is a path I think a lot of similar books unfortunately go down).

The other plot device thing that I think may bother some readers is Courtney's ability to BE Jane. It removes some of the tension of the 'fish out of water' aspect of the story for Courtney to be asked to do something very Regency-era, like embroider or dance, and be able to do it seamlessly because Jane could. On the one hand, it works on a muscle memory-level, but it runs a little too close to a sort of mini-Deus Ex Machina thing, saving Courtney from potentially embarrassing or hard to explain situations. I was able to go with it and it didn't bother me much, but it bears mentioning, because there's a chance it will bother others. (Some may not like Courtney herself, for that matter, but I've never been one to shy away from a prickly main character. Sweet, sweet darling that I am, myself...)

Those couple of mechanical things aside, this was just plain fun. It was playful and funny, even on occasion a little bit steamy, and very readable. It pulled me along and made me want to keep reading, which if you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know is no small feat of recent; I've gone from one book funk to another, and have been dropping books right and left for a few solid years now. Not only did this not make me want to drop it, but it actually made me a little sad when it was over!

One of my favorite things is the fact that it actually addresses what it would be like dealing with the minutae of life. Every time people say things like, "I wish I could go back to such-and-such time period," I'm always like, well yeah, but. . . what about having to use the bathroom there? Or taking care of and replacing your contact lenses... Dealing with your period... Poor sanitation and air quality and food storage... Lack of female autonomy... And the smell!
Can you imagine the smell?
Our Austen addict, Courtney, actually addresses these things. She deals with the less desirable bits of being a Regency-era woman, from periods to chaperones, to threats of asylums if she doesn't fall in line. She talks about smells and feels and sounds, and desperately wanting a bath, no matter the inconvenience caused to servants. She deals with the

Now, though I've already talked about some big caveats that may put some readers off, I want to make it clear that I really enjoyed this, tore through it, and am looking forward to the next book. The reason I want to make that clear is that I have one more (potentially major) caveat to discuss: the ending. The ending is ambiguous and open; if you look for absolutes and neat packages tied up with bows, and all questions answered, you're going to be disappointed, and probably VERY frustrated. I've always been a fan of some ambiguity, but even so, I did feel like some thread were left hanging, and I would have liked to see where they went. Hopefully the 2nd book will answer some of my questions, but I don't know if that will be the case; it may well just be a sort of magical realist, metaphysical duology, and that'll be that. Either way, I think I'll enjoy it, but I always try to give you guys enough info going in to decide if a book is right for you or not, so all of this bears mentioning.

I feel like there's a lot more I could say and want to discuss, which means this would probably make a great book club selection. But this review is certainly long enough already, so I'll just leave it at: for me, it worked, and I'm looking forward to the Rude Awakening.

Disclosure: I received this book as a gift from the author. A review was not required or promised, and all opinions are honest and my own.

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  1. Huh, good to get your thoughts on the heroine and the story. I still have this one and its sequel on the stack to read. It does look fun and I'm glad you found it to be that. :)

  2. It sounds interesting, especially since she deals with things that are everyday for us but so different back then. This is in my TBR list.

  3. Yay! I really liked this one (and the sequel) as well. It's always nice to read an Austeny romp that ISN'T a Mary Sue, but actually thoughtful and imaginative and stands on its own but is enhanced by a knowledge of all things Jane.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Misty. It reminded me of the story which I read many years ago and I felt unsatisfied with the ending. It left me guessing how it ended which I don't like. I like to find closure in the books that I read.


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