All her heroines find love in the end—but is there love waiting for Jane?
Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone's guess.
Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years—did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us—to a greater or lesser degree—are head over heels for Jane.
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While I have read an enjoyable biography of Jane Austen, I would never consider myself an expert on her life. However, it is my understanding that Jane was not one to have many love affairs. While hastily engaged (and disengaged) in 1802, she never married. Given the romantic content of her work, many have marveled at her ability to delve into the fictional hearts of female characters that have fallen in love. Some have speculated that she did indeed find love in her lifetime, possibly with a man she associated with for a short time in Bath, or maybe in her flirtation with Thomas Lefroy, a relative of a friend.
Much like the book and film Becoming Jane, Scott Southard’s speculative novel A Jane Austen Daydream takes the idea of an enamored Jane Austen and draws out an interesting perspective, based both on documented events and fictional ones. Southard follows the highlights of Jane’s life, such as her days in Steventon, Bath and Chawton, as well as other locales. Yet other aspects of the story are pure fabrication, such as her interactions with men and fictional letters she wrote to her sister Cassandra.
While Southard molds Jane’s life events somewhat, he does so in a way that conveys his love for Austen. From this we have an interesting narrative, one that includes many winks to Austen’s works. Individuals from Jane’s life are frequently spouting off quotes that can be found in her novels. Moreover, we are given a view of Jane’s processes as a writer, how she was inspired to create, and how this desire would leak out into her everyday living. As a creative writer, Southard’s Jane is found fabricating a lie to suit her desires, as well as conjuring up in her mind elaborate speculations on incidents that she had not been party to.
We also see Jane’s growth as a woman. At the start of the novel, I found some of Jane’s frivolous choices and insecurities not to be consistent with how I see the true author. However, as the story progresses, certain life events occur which mold her into a more mature woman. These events seem to be sprinkled symbolically throughout her work as well. It’s clear that her ultimate daydream is to have a fulfilling love relationship with a man who seems out of reach. When this possibility seems denied to her, she allows the many characters of her novels to live out the love life she herself yearns to experience.
I will not reveal how Mr. Southard chose to end A Jane Austen Daydream. We know that Jane died as a relatively young 41 year-old woman. We don’t know if she ever truly had a fulfilling romantic relationship. But the beauty of speculative fiction is that the author can place his hopes for his characters on the page. In that light, A Jane Austen Daydream is very much a lovely dream. It’s not always a pleasant one—Jane has her own brand of villains and obstacles to contend with along the way. Yet overall, Daydream is an interesting, entertaining look at a life that Jane could have had. Scott Southard takes her through his own dream for her, holding onto much of the reality of her life, but also offering her possibilities that could only transpire on the pages of a novel. I enjoyed Southard’s choices as a writer, and wish that Jane could have actually experienced them herself. Fans of Austen’s works will enjoy this love letter to Jane, one that both entertains as well as cherishes her as she truly was: An amazing writer and a woman who deeply loved, even if only in the written word.
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UPDATE: FREE COPY!
For a limited time, A Jane Austen Daydream is free on Kindle. I just noticed this posting from Scott on July 1st:
For the next two days my publisher is sharing my novel A Jane Austen Daydream free on Amazon! More info via the link (and please share and tell a friend!)
Review copy provided by Madison Street Publishing