- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 50 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Madison Street Publishing
- Audible.com Release Date: September 23, 2014
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00NUD3GLE
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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A Jane Austen Daydream Audiobook – Unabridged
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More significant are the various romances Jane has.
In her first, Tom LeFoy is less John Willoughby than Jane is Marianne Dashwood, except even more naive, foolhardy and carried away by sensibility. The story lost me for a while. I was too aggravated with Jane to be able to enjoy this section.
Later, Jane's father, Rev. Austen, plans to retire. His replacement Mr. Blackwell arrives, full of inflated ego and an absurd 50-step plan to purify the congregation he is to take over. Shades of Mr. Collins! Mrs. Austen desires a match between him and Jane despite knowing he would never allow a wife to be a writer, which is Jane's passion. Obviously, this potential match doesn't end well.
The Austen family moves to Bath. Jane encounters a wealthy childhood friend, Mr. Bigg-Withers. He's presented as a cross between John Thorpe and Sir Walter Elliot. He and Jane agree to a marriage of convenience. Their engagement lasts longer than the one day of the real life engagement of Jane Austen to Mr. Bigg-Wither, but here it's called off during a much more dramatic scene at a society Christmas house party.
Another strange plot choice explains the book title: the author inserts himself as the love of Jane Austen's life. He's usually referred to as "an American," and he's a writer in Bath with a traveling theater group headed by his brother. It's a brave, whimsical choice, especially when he's shot by Jane's younger brother Charles.
I'm not at all comfortable with the way the Austen siblings are depicted, or with the way Jane's relationship with them is depicted. She hides quite a lot from Cassandra despite the close bond they are famously known to have shared. When the entire family is in agreement opposing her dearest wish, she accepts their decision without even attempting to explain why they're all wrong. I was furious with them all, and even more furious with her for not fighting harder.
There is a satisfying ending for our beloved author, but by that time I just didn't care.
After bogging down in the beginning of the novel, I set it aside and then picked it up again when I was less rushed. Life at the time of the novel moved more slowly than it does now. It's best to come to a novel like this relaxed and without any hurry to finish it.
I was instantly plucked from the reality of the novel by the author's revelation about the American. At first I thought I would not be able to enjoy the rest. However, I had been hooked by Part II and so enthralled with the book that I stayed with it for hours, barely able to rise from my chair by the end. The author's writing skill was the lime sorbet that removed the bad taste of this course.
Perhaps it says more about me than it does the novel, but I was able to accept the prospect of an unhappy ending more easily than the happy ending that seemed to bring the story down from its towering heights to street level.
Now on to dessert!
I applaud the author for his skill in duplicating the style and substance of Jane Austen's novels, and for his understanding of what types of scenes readers enjoy reading. His concept was brilliant: "For how else could Jane look at life but as a story, a novel in which she was the main character?"
The story became more engrossing for me once Jane received the letter from Mr. Lefroy. His words and her reaction brought both characters to life. The event was significant enough to cause the first growth spurt in Jane's character.
I enjoyed the many references to Jane Austen's writing. Her accidental discovery of Pride and Prejudice was described thus, "Jane slowly stopped talking, a strange expression beginning to cross her brow as she became drowned in the flood of her own thoughts."
The author's portrayal of Rev. Blackwell was the first high point of the story. His character was so well drawn that he sprang to life in front of me. I recognized in him others who believe it is their duty to save us from ourselves. Rev. Blackwell: "In the hands of a good religious leader, an entire community could rise above the rest and become a shining example to the rest of the kingdom." And Jane's reaction to him: "If there are no books, music, or dance, how will the people smile?" Their relationship is one of two great comic episodes of the novel. Jane's bargain with Mr. Bigg-Withers is the other.
Jane's banter with the American during their Sadness Game was enjoyable to read and gave insight to their characters. The description of Jane overhearing readers discuss her novel also brought her character to life and is a good example of Southard's ability to channel Austen: "How she longed for that first moment in catching a stranger reading her book or, perchance, hearing people speak of her work over tea . . .she saw herself leaning back in her chair to give the conversation an ear, biting her hand to keep from laughing or speaking out loud."
The novel was summed up best with Jane's comment. "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?"
Southard's description of a writer's motives is right on target, gave me an appreciation of his aim in writing this novel, and sums up my own feelings about it: "…as any writer will tell you, it was not about financial gain. Publishing is about sharing one's work, the idea of entertaining another, reaching out like a hand looking for another's to hold--that is at the heart of the true writer's goals…"
The author's words best express my enjoyment of this novel: "A great author can make you feel for characters that you do not know and you are fully aware never existed . . .the greater the writer, the more you care for the illusion that they paint with words."
I am awarding five stars in spite of my fish course, because the author outdid himself with the dessert!