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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.