Books by Jane Austen have always been popular, but it is fairly safe to say most people know little about the author herself. In Just Jane author Nancy Moser attempts to change this. The book chronicles Austen’s life from her early twenties until the publishing of Emma.
I found the storyline of this book to be confusing at times. Moser did a lot of research into Austen’s life during this time period and seems to mention every single event in Austen’s life during this time period, no matter how small or insignificant. The book moves quickly from one event to another often with no sense of how much time has passed if any between the events. This makes the storyline at times confusing and hard to follow.
However, the overall story is very interesting and provides a great deal of insight into Austen and her books. Moser does an excellent job of expressing Jane’s feelings on various subjects especially: her love of her childhood home and her reluctance to leave it, her close relationship with her sister Cassandra, her frustrations over the problems with getting her book published, and her dislike for many of the places where she lived especially Bath.
Along with the story Moser provides several references within the book to assist readers. At the beginning there is a list of the members of the Austen family along with several other main characters. While reading I found myself constantly referring back to this list, because I could never keep straight who was married to who and who their children were.
After the last chapter there is a “Postscript” which details what happened to Jane and many of the characters in the book after the end. There is also a letter from Moser to the reader giving her perspective on what she thinks Jane was really like. In another section Moser details what is fact and fiction in the story. Finally there are discussion questions relating to the book.
I learned a lot about Jane Austen in this book; before reading it I knew very little about her and her life. Some of the things I learned were that her father was a clergyman, she never married, some of the inspiration for her books came from her own life, and it took a very long time for her first novel to be published.
Perseverance is a major theme throughout the book. Jane had to wait a long time for her books to be published, even after she sent her first book to the publisher. Nevertheless she keeps on writing and hoping they will be published someday.
On the whole Just Jane will definitely appeal to true Jane Austen fans, but I am unsure about anyone else. If a reader can follow the events of the book and keep the characters straight the book can be enjoyable, otherwise it is very confusing and frustrating. I give this book three out of five stars.
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Soli Deo Gloria!