Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wife or Author?

Just Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen's Life
By Nancy Moser

I loved this fictional account of the life of Jane Austen, told as if by Jane, herself. The author does a great job with the language and manners of the times, as well as in bringing out the wit and sarcasm of Austen.
It shows the various stages of her life and loves. Although she never married, she was surely in love, and was proposed to at least twice. She chose not to marry, as she was a romantic, and did not wish to marry someone she did not love. (What a concept!)
Most of the books' scenes are taken from biographies of her life, as well as any letters that may have remained. Her sister, Cassandra, destroyed the most personal letters after Jane's death at age 41.
I especially liked how the author described Austen's feelings about writing, her characters, and ultimately her books. She describes her books as her children, and when she first received them, she counted their fingers and toes.
Once, her chest filled with her completed manuscripts and current writing projects was inadvertantly placed on a coach heading to the coast and then to the West Indies. She was frantic. They represented years of work. They were her children. Her mother didn't understand why she was so upset. She was able to retrieve them and was sure never to be without them nearby.
She didn't seek fame, This was evident by the fact that originally her books did not even bear her name, but were published anonymously. Also, she refused to have her brother negotiate a better contract for Pride and Prejudice, as his wife had just died. She saw that publication was vindication that her work had merit. One man remarked that the writing was so clever that he couldn't believe it had been written by a woman. She was thrilled with the independence that came with earning an income, especially as her family was in a difficult financial situation at the time. She loved praise and was bothered by criticism, but more than anything she just wanted to write, to be free to be who she was, to use her gifts, and to create her own Mr. Darcy, since she was unable to find him for herself.
Undoubtedly, if she had married, she would have had a very different life and would probably not been free to pursue her writing career and the world would not be reading her works two hundred years later.
By letting the mating game go on without her, she was free to write and be, Just Jane.

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