December 31, 2010

Who knew Jenny Cooper was this interesting?!

I am a Jane Austen fan, but not because of Pride and Prejudice. No, I introduced myself to Austen through the likes of one Gwyneth Paltrow. She was so charming in Emma, and who can resist the coupling of Emma and Mr. Knightly? So, I read the book. And to this day, it is my favorite Austen novel. I find myself attracted to Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy as well...but not like my love for Mr. Knightly. And yet, I am always looking for books about Jane, not just by her. I do not like reading those who try to imitate her style; it just does not work. But I do love when authors are able to take this remarkable woman and create story-telling about her through her surroundings.

This leads me to this wonderful shelf find. Yes, I found this simply by browsing the shelf at B&N and knew instantly I must read it. I had high hopes for this novel, after all, can you imagine Jane Austen at 15?! After all, she is Jane Austen.

The premise of this YA novel is simple: Jenny Cooper and Jane Austen are cousins. Ages are changed to accommodate the plot (the author divulges this at the end), and the two are at boarding school together. Jane falls ill and it is not the Head Mistress that is her savior but Jenny! Jenny risks everything, but more importantly her reputation, to send a letter to Jane's mother at the fear that Jane will not survive this illness.

And thus we are thrown into the world of Jane Austen, but through the eyes (and diary entries) of Jenny Cooper, cousin-extraordinaire. The two are rescued by Mama and Papa Austen and taken back to Jane's home; they spend a splendid year together - balls, walks, talks, and of course men. But there is one man who has caught Jenny's eye, and she has caught his. BUT, he is the keeper of a very important secret...will he "spill the beans" and reveal all, completely ruining Jenny's reputation and any prospects of marriage? Or, will he take her in his arms and promise to devote himself to her as his husband? After all, even though the story is from Jenny's point of view, this is an Austen novel.

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend will not disappoint, whether you are a fan of Austen's or not. If you've never read an Austen novel, well, what are you waiting for?! No, this novel is a nice introduction into the fifteen-year-old destined to be immortalized through the guise of books forever.  It is well-researched and presents the Austen family in a realistic light. They are a struggling family who love one another deeply, but ultimately they must all marry money...just like Miss Jenny Cooper.

I give this novel an enthusiastic two thumbs up!!!

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