Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, 293 pages, Penguin Group, 2007.
Taken from the Good Reads summary:
“After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?
Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her love of Jane Austen has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. Enter the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who fills Courtney’s borrowed brain with confusing memories that are clearly not her own.
Try as she might to control her mind and find a way home, Courtney cannot deny that she is becoming this other woman and being this other woman is not without its advantages: Especially in a looking-glass Austen world. Especially with a suitor who may not turn out to be a familiar species of philanderer after all.”
Click “more” to read my review!
So, I bet you thought to yourself, “Hey, this book looks okay. The synopsis even makes it sound like it may be fun. I like Jane Austen so, what the heck!” Don’t be fooled, my friend. I too thought these same things and I was sorely mistaken. I don’t even want to attempt to summarize what happens in this book because I’m not entirely sure what happened. Actually, no, the plot is straight forward enough: Courtney/Jane wakes up. Courtney/Jane gets proposed to. Courtney/Jane goes to Bath and then London. Courtney/Jane almost sleeps with a man that she has only known for an hour. Courtney/Jane comes home. Courtney/Jane decides to marry the aforementioned proposer after all. Cue the most awkward, confusing, and all together disappointing ending (can a disappointing book have a disappointing ending?) that has ever graced a Jane Austen inspired novel. (I should mention that Jane is the woman whose body Courtney wakes up in) Okay, I’m not being entirely fair. There is more to the story than what I outlined above… but not much.
I have two very serious issues with this book: the title and the main character.
Let’s begin with the title. I have never encountered a book title so misleading in my entire life. Courtney Stone never once does anything that can be compared to sharing a confession. She does a whole lot of whining and ranting and complaining and judging… but never once does she confess to anything that she is feeling or thinking (unless you count, “My corset hurts. I wonder why women of this time allow men to view them as breeding cattle. Should I find a man? I feel so empowered in my femininity because I can choose to have sex with random men while rendered incoherent from excessive drinking.”) Maybe it is just me, but when I read a book that has “confessions” in the title, I expect the main character to share things… and to discover things… and to come to conclusions about how she feels. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is what I expect. And the whole Jane Austen Addict bit? I suppose that Rigler believes that she created a character who can be described as such because she has read all of Jane Austen’s works… but the only way she backs this is up is by randomly quoting lines from the different titles and ranting about the merits of the Pride and Prejudice film adaptations. Sorry, but any idiot can open an Austen novel and copy down a quote. That doesn’t make them a fan, let alone an addict. I’m not convinced. The book should have been titled Self Righteous Woman Switches Body With Regency Woman.
Now to my second problem – Courtney Stone. I hated her. I mean hated her. Here are a few things that I gathered about Courtney Stone: 1. Despite being a self-proclaimed Austen addict, Courtney has little to no knowledge or understanding of the Regency period. 2. Courtney thinks that having meaningless and random sex is a prerequisite to any possible future relationship, as well as a sign of her independence from patriarchal society. 3. Courtney has absolutely zero regard for anyone around her, including her closest friend and the woman whose body is inhabiting.
Yes, Courtney. Any person who has read any work by Jane Austen (or has even watched a film adaptation) can gather a couple things about that time period: women were expected to have advantageous marriages as a means to financial survival. Men were often able to go galavanting around whilst women are expected to sit, in a corset, embroidering tiny roses onto pillow cases. Mothers who have daughters often concerned themselves with said daughters’ martial statuses. And yes, damn it. The dresses had empire waist lines. We know this. Does this BASIC knowledge of Regency England stop Courtney from ranting and raving about female-male inequalities or stop her unrelenting observations about how unflattering empire waists are? No! (This is one of the MAIN reasons that Courtney is totally unbelievable as an Austen fan.)
I need to stop myself before this review turns into an all out rant and say that there were two saving graces to this book. First, Rigler actually does an amazing job of painting Regency England for a modern audience. Jane Austen wrote her books for an audience who would have understood and known the world that she was talking about and because of this, I have always struggled with fully understanding what was going on. I am not ashamed to admit that the most recent Pride and Prejudice movie is one of the main reasons why I can completely understand what is going on in that story. It is okay to use outside sources to understand stories. Rigler takes Courtney through an Austen environment – from country life to the Pump Room in Bath and explains things as she goes. I really appreciated that and I think that she did an extremely good job.
Secondly, I found the secondary characters to be really interesting. While I could careless whether or not Courtney got trampled by a horse, I found that I was intrigued by Mary Edgeworth’s story, and I wanted to learn more about her. Honestly, if Rigler had cut Courtney out of the book completely… and wrote a story about Jane and Mary’s lives, I think the book would have been 100% better.
So, I gave Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict 2.5/5 stars. I didn’t like this book… but I leaned closer to being neutral because it wasn’t a complete bust.
Who would I recommend this to? Anyone who struggles with understanding Regency England (simply read this as a culture study) or anyone who can completely ignore a main character.
Until next time, happy reading!