The name Jane Austen comes with it a god-like reputation in the literary world. Austen’s novels are classics, and their messages are timeless, making them readable and enjoyable for even today’s modern readers. Recently, though, attention has diverted from these famous stories to interest in the author who penned them. Of these is an interestingly modest bio-novel of Jane Austen’s life written by author Nancy Moser who presents the novelist as being Just Jane.

Just Jane is narrated in the first person by Austen herself as Moser resurrects her from the dead to re-experience her adult life. Her story opens when Jane is in her early 20’s and well into the marrying age. At this time, she is nearly engaged to an Irishman named Tom Lefroy and begging work on a novel that she originally titles First Impressions that will later be renamed Pride and Prejudice. The rest of the Austen family is introduced early on as well including her parson father and mother and several siblings, her favorite being her older sister, Cassandra who becomes her writing muse. When Cassandra’s fiancé dies and Tom Lefroy marries another, Cassandra refuses to ever marry and Jane swears only to marry for love.

In between waiting for the love of her life to come along, Jane spends her time writing, playing the piano, and visiting friends and family throughout their section of England. Other prospects do come along for Jane, but the possibility of marriage is either disrupted or refused. Jane is presented as being strong, stubborn and immature as well as loving, passionate, and rooted. She experiences loss, change in status, and defining moments in her adult life. As Jane ages, her focus shifts from finding a husband to finding a way to publish her books. In this way, her identity slowly develops.

Moser’s novel is well researched, using actual letters inserted throughout her storytelling as well as other biographies on Austen. Her narration is journal-like, reflective and descriptive. The story moves along through the letters that Jane writes and receives telling her news and gossip. Even the worst tragedies do not linger with her nor effect her in the long run until the death of her father comes. Then, Jane’s now widowed mother must be supported with help from Jane’s brothers to sustain a modest lifestyle for she and her two spinster daughters, forcing Jane to see that her stubborn refusal to marry has made her a burden in life.

As a writer, Jane does everything a writer is not supposed to do. She writes only when in an ideal mood. She takes rejection personally, and she dwells on the opinions of her readers. However, in managing her writing career her own way, she finds the modest success, personal fulfillment, and financial aid needed to fulfill her purpose in life.

Jane also has a modern outlook of her society. Whether this is Moser’s voice commenting on the social aspects of the times or Austen’s personal views is unknown. Whatever he case, audiences can cheer for Moser’s interpretation of this beloved author who is depicted to be as heroic as the female protagonists she created.

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Trade Paper Price: $13.99

 352 pages

Release Date: September 2007

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