Monday, August 24, 2009

Jane Austen is all the rage these days. Who knew a young lady who lived 200 years ago would be so adept at solving mysteries, fighting zombies and negotiating 21st century life? In Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, a contemporary of Jane Austen is suddenly transported to modern day Los Angeles.

Jane Mansfield, who thinks it is the year 1813 and that she lives in Somerset, is horrified to realize that she has suddenly been transported to the year 2009 and into the body of Courtney Stone. Courtney is surrounded by friends, an ex-fiance, and co-workers who tell her that she recently suffered a blow to the head in a swimming pool accident. For Jane, this means nothing. She speaks "Austenese" and shows helplessness at such minor tasks as getting dressed and answering her cell phone. Still, no one around her seems to take in the fact that she claims to be from another time and another century. They all think that her obsession with Jane Austen books and films has addled her mind.

The first half of the book is taken up with the above-mentioned friends all exclaiming, "You don't remember so-and-so?" or "Can't you remember when we did such-and-such?" Obviously, NO, but the bemused questioning continues.

It soon transpires that Jane had been chaffing against her repressed life back in 1813. She resented the rigid rules that society had set out for women of the period. She was also experiencing romantic difficulties, and had a mother who was cold and distant. Courtney, before the switch, had made a muddle of her life -- a broken engagement, a degrading job, and a severe financial crisis.

Although Jane/Courtney is at first totally amazed by all the new technology, it soon emerges that she "remembers" how to use the computer, drive a car, do laundry and other modern tasks. She also seems to get occasional flash-backs to Courtney's previous life. Of course, there is something of a love triangle between the ex-fiance and an old friend, so Jane must negotiate the very different rules of male-female interaction between her time and the present.

The story was an interesting concept, but I was annoyed by how slow it was. Not much happened over the course of the whole book. On the one hand, Courtney's friends are incredibly dim at picking up on how little she seems to know about day to day life. On the other hand, Jane can easily pick up technology, yet she clings on to her outdated ideas about dress/relationships/interactions long after it would seem plausible. Overall, the book was a strain to finish because it was so dull!

I'm sure we'll be treated to another book in this vein, because there are some hints that 21st century Courtney has changed places with Jane and is inhabiting 1813 Somerset. Maybe that book will have more action! We can only hope . . .

Final Verdict for Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict: Two Gherkins, for being a pleasant, if somewhat slow, tribute to all things Austen

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

0gherkins3Don't be givin' me evils!

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