If you would like to receive occasional updates about readings, talks, writing workshops, and other Jane Austen Addict news, please enter your email address here:
For features, interviews, and best-of lists, please click on "Press" on the left-hand menu.
FICTION: Love in an alien age
Reviewed By Shagufta Naaz | InpaperMagzine
April 10, 2011
IT is a truth universally acknowledged that a chick-lit writer in search of fame can always rely on Jane Austen to sell her books. Or, as Jennifer Frey of Washington Post puts it, “We live in a Jane Austen universe [and]… Nowhere is this more evident than in the large chain bookstores, where ‘chick-lit’ tables are smothered with volumes that boast… an Austen reference somewhere within (or even in a blurb on the back). Austen, it’s been suggested, is the great-great-grandmother of ‘chick lit’.”
So, it comes as no surprise that Laurie Viera Rigler chose to follow up her successful debut novel Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict with Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict.
In Confessions we followed the adventures of Courtney Stone who is transported into 19th century England to take over the life of a gentlewoman, Jane Mansfield. In Rude Awakenings, we get to read the second half of the story, that is, Jane’s adventures in 21st century Los Angles. Sounds like fun? Well it is, but it takes a while to warm up.
Time travel is nothing new for a chick-lit author — Jude Deveraux, for one, did a slick job with A Knight in Shining Armour — but bringing your heroine 200 years into the future is far more challenging than taking her back in time. Obviously she is going to be bewildered by the wonders of technology but it is how she reacts to the more ordinary things that will establish her credentials.
Fortunately, Rigler’s knowledge of the Regency era is deep enough for her to pull this off reasonably well. Jane’s perfect Austenesque language may sound stiff, but no one can quarrel with the note of authenticity (except when she’s looking in her wallet for ‘cash’); her bewilderment when confronted with underclothing, her joy when she discovers running water and her amusement at the term ‘living room’ (“is there a dying room as well?”) show that Rigler has studied the finer details of her period.
However, no matter how well it’s done, there’s only so far that a gimmick (and using an Austen theme is often not much more than that) can take you; luckily, Rigler has the substance to back up the theme. Before the humour of watching Jane fumble through the paraphernalia of modern living begins to pall, (well almost), Rigler manages to let her heroine evolve from a caricature of a Regency era woman into a well-rounded character who soon sets about learning how to make the best of her new life — or rather, Courtney’s life.
Unfortunately, Courtney’s life is one big mess. There’s her rude, dictatorial boss, her cheating ex-fiancé Frank who just won’t give up, her bossy friend Paula, her tiresome mother, and finally, there’s Wes.
Though Jane’s friends warn her against trusting Wes — after all, he covered up for Frank, didn’t he? — Jane can’t help but be drawn to this handsome stranger who seems so familiar. On the other hand, she also feels attracted to Frank, and he’s definitely bad news — or is he?
Since Rude Awakenings is firmly positioned on the chick lit shelf, romance is obviously the main theme. However, for Rigler, Austen seems more than just a name to be bandied on the cover; while romance is important, the novel is more an Austen-style comedy of manners and along the way we also get some perceptive social commentary. Jane first wonders in awe at the liberty that women have achieved, then (after a course of Courtney’s relationship books) shrewdly notes that “while women value their so-called sexual freedom, they are fearful of giving away too much, too soon, thus obviating a man’s reasons for marrying. Which sounds like freedom for men and not for women.”
Ultimately Rude Awakenings is a story of a woman who is plucked out of her comfort zone — a woman who has never had to make a decision more momentous than which gown to wear — in fact, even that is dictated by her mother — and thrown into an alien environment. It is the story of how she finds the strength and courage to deal with her new situation, the willingness to adapt to her circumstances, the wisdom to make the right choices and the grace and humour to take life as it comes. You don’t have to be a Jane Austen addict to appreciate that.
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict
By Laurie Viera Rigler