When Life Is A Mess… Turn to Jane!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Amazon Vine
Similar to the style of Beth Pattillo and Laurie Viera Rigler, My Jane Austen Summer, debut author Cindy Jones, presents an Austen-inspired contemporary fiction novel that transports an unfortunate and lost heroine to England for an adventure and romance of her very own. Poor Lily Berry has had a recent onslaught of bad luck losing her mother, boyfriend, and job in short succession. Sustaining Lily through these trials is the comfort of Jane Austen’s novels and the companionship of Jane Austen, appearing to Lily in the form of an imaginary yet silent friend. Grasping at an opportunity for a fresh start, Lily decides to travel to England and take part in a Jane Austen literature festival. Unfortunately, Lily’s streak of bad luck follows her to England and Lily discovers, the hard way, that you can’t run away from your life.
Working for the Jane Austen literature festival doesn’t turn out quite like Lily expected. Instead of receiving a role in the Mansfield Park reenactment, Lily is given odd jobs like organizing a Jane Austen Regency Tea and labeling envelopes. Instead of connecting with other Janeites on their love for Jane Austen, Lily bunks with a sloppy non-Austen-loving roommate that steals her things. Instead of delving into Jane Austen’s genius and artistry, Lily encounters directors who want to radically interpret Mansfield Park.
I took great pleasure in the little world of unique and colorful characters Cindy Jones created for My Jane Austen Summer. Besides following Lily and her story, the reader: witnesses the not-so-secret adulterous affair between directors Magda and Archie, learns about Nigel’s illness and unconventional marriage with Vera, and discovers the truth about Lily’s dad and the new woman in his life. While I enjoyed these diverse characters and their stories, I’m afraid I didn’t find many of them likable (especially Magda and Vera). In addition, it felt like there is a universal theme of adultery in this novel, which is a little too depressing a theme for my tastes.
My favorite aspect of this novel was Lily’s imaginary Jane Austen, who is like “a floater you get in your eye. If you look at her she’ll dart off into another periphery.” Even though this probably confirms that fact that Lily needs to seek some professional help, I absolutely loved Lily’s Jane Austen. I love the fact that her Jane Austen didn’t have to say anything for Lily to know what she was thinking. Lily’s Jane Austen was at times supportive, admonishing, and caustic.
“My Jane Austen was present and she was writing her next book based on the persecution of Lily Berry by the tyrannical literary person wearing a head scarf.”
“I sensed My Jane Austen behind me, gathering her skirts to prepare for our getaway, urgent for me to take the necklace and run.”
Another element I took pleasure in was the burgeoning romance between Lily and another character, at times it felt like a Fanny/Edmund romance yet at others it resembled an Elinor/Edward romance. However, I feel a little ambivalent about this couple’s conclusion. I understand the importance of showing Lily’s growth and self-discovery, but my heart was aching for a romantic ending after all that build up! Nonetheless, I found Cindy Jones’s debut novel, My Jane Austen Summer, to be an entertaining and engaging adventure, and her writing to be intelligent and clever. I hope to see more Austenesque literature from her soon!