Courtney Stone is in a world of trouble. Not only is she struggling to get over her philandering ex and dishonest best friend in modern-day Los Angeles, she’s now awoken to find herself trapped in the impossibly different and beautiful body of Jane Mansfield, an unmarried thirty-year-old woman living and breathing in eighteenth-century England — the same England of Jane Austen, Courtney’s all-time favorite author.
In Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Courtney grapples with the whys and hows of her very unusual circumstances in the early 1800s, somehow managing to form an alliance with Mary, the sister of the illustrious Mr. Edgeworth, and beginning to see the world of Austen in an entirely different light. Once admired for its sense of propriety and romance, Courtney begins to realize the social conventions that once seemed so endearing were unbelievably constrictive — even reprehensible. And everything else begins to shift and reshape as she sees the world through Jane Mansfield’s eyes — including a burgeoning relationship with Edgeworth, a strained one with her “mother” Mrs. Mansfield and the countless other details of a life Jane Mansfield seemed to struggle so hard to be living.
I’m a huge Austen addict myself, and I found myself pretty caught up in this story. I can’t say I felt the passion or romance bubbling off the page at any point, but I took these “confessions” to be more about Courtney discovering what a “self-empowered” woman really is — and it doesn’t necessarily mean going out and sleeping with whoever we want, or having all-night girls nights out, or having the freedom to work wherever we would like (though it can be those things, too). Courtney uses her time as Jane to discover who she is as a person . . . as soon as she stops obsessing over how to get back to L.A.
Like other reviews I’ve read, I found the end unsatisfying — I had so many questions about the mechanics of everything that happened. It seemed to all be dismissed by mysticism or just plain overlooked, like we would forget about it. I was also bothered by Rigler’s constant barrage of rhetorical questions — How is this happening? Will I ever be home? Am I losing my identity? Why am I thinking like Jane? — and wanted a little more showing and less telling in the story. More dialogue could have definitely helped with that, I think.
But overall it was a great, fast read, and I think many Austen fans will enjoy Rigler’s romantic scenes and glimpses at life behind Austen’s words — the nuts and bolts of a real bath in Bath, for instance. I was happy to have made the journey with Courtney/Jane.
4 out of 5!