The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
By Syrie James
Paperback, 303 pages
2007, William Morrow
After being hidden for hundreds of years in an old chest in an attic at historic Chawton Cottage, the memoirs of Jane Austen were discovered and printed, shedding light on a life-changing romance that Jane revealed to only her closest family members. Could this relationship have inspired scenes and characters for her beloved novels? Read Jane’s own thoughts on her experience and what ultimately lead to her revising and striving to publish her first novel, Sense and Sensibility.
This is a fiction memoir, treated as a lost manuscript in the same vein as Pride and Promiscuity, though of course without the ridiculous sexy bits. I found it to be a quick, entertaining read, though I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about it. There’s nothing wrong with it either, but it didn’t grip me the way Jane’s actual work does and James’s writing was…well…fine.
The plot is a blend of true events from Jane’s life, fictional happenings and little references to her novels, through characters or scenes. For instance, in this book Jane meets a parson whose behavior is so ridiculous that she decides to base a character off him (Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice). Her own relationship in this novel mirrors parts of that between Elizabeth and Darcy, as well as Elinor and Edward and Marianne and Willoughby.
This book is a pleasant little nod to Jane’s life and her fiction. It has inspired me to read some more biographical pieces about her (perhaps for next year’s Austen Month!) and I think fans of her work will enjoy this book (perhaps especially the reference to her lack of kisses at the end of her novel and James’s answer to this).