The title: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
The authors: Syrie James
Publication: Avon, 2007
Got it from: A co-worker
First of all, an administrative update: this website has gone mobile! And by "gone mobile," I mean that I accidentally stumbled on my settings page, noticed that was an option, and enabled it. That means you can now view this blog easier on a mobile device. Wow, I actually made a change to this blog. It doesn't happen often.
On to my review.
This book is a fictional account of what Jane Austen's real memoirs would have looked up, if she'd written them. Or rather, what would happen if Jane Austen's memoirs were an account of a great, lost love she'd had that inspired her works.
James does a decent job evoking the era and writing in Jane Austen's voice. However, I just could not quell my inner critic. I'm just not sure what the intent of this book is. If you want to learn about Jane Austen's life, a biography be better because then you're not left wondering what is fiction and what is fact. If you want a love story, then this isn't it, since large segments of the book do not serve the romance plot at all and you know it isn't going to end well anyway. Maybe if I didn't know so much about Jane Austen or the Regency era, I might have thought it was charming, but instead I found the same old characters and situations trotted out. James basically uses exact characters and scenes from Austen's novels, sometimes lifting the sentences verbatim and then claiming it's where Jane Austen got the inspiration from. It just seems sloppy, as though James can't possibly conceive of original characters or plots and has to recycle ones we already know and love.
I'm not against fictionalized biographies. Let's face it, writers don't tend to lead exciting lives, and sometimes embellishment is needed to make them more exciting. But I couldn't help feeling cheated, like I'd paid to watch a new movie and just seen a remake instead.