I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend – Cora Harrison
I love Jane Austen. Love, Love, Love. This love affair started much after I had read her first book. No, I didn’t start loving her work as soon as I read her first. It happened only when my Eng. Lit. professor explained to us, the various nuances of her writing, and her wit and her modern thinking. So when a book with a title like I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend came across, I simply had to read it. And, I am happy I did it.
Now, one needs to keep two things in mind while reading this book. You can either keep in mind that this is about Jane, when she was 15, and this is a peek (fictional, of course) into her life OR you can imagine Jane to be a random 15-year-old who loves to write and is growing up to become a famous writer. Take your pick, it’s a good story either way.
An account of Jane Austen’s life, as the author imagined it to be, made for an interesting read. The story is narrated by Jenny, Jane’s cousin who went to the same boarding school as Jane did and was a year older. Jenny was an orphan whose brother and sister-in-law didn’t care about her much, and she herself was devoted to Jane. Jane and Jenny were best friends. Following an illness and an episode Jenny was very ashamed of, the girls find themselves out of the horrible boarding school and at Jane’s house, being mothered and pampered by Mrs Austen. Here, we have Jane’s parents and brothers. A lot happens, as it does happen in the lives of young teenaged ladies, everywhere across the world. Love blooms, hearts break, some mend back and some find new love. Relationships are put to test.
The way the characters and the story are developed, the reader gets a strong whiff of Austen’s style, albeit individuality has also been maintained. I adored this book from cover to cover; would love to read more books like this. The story has been written in a diary-like format, with sketches of the people in the story, made by Jenny, to indicate to the readers of her diary, how the people she was writing about, looked. Also in the entries of the diary, where snippets off of Jane’s novel, which she would write on bits of paper and then give to Jenny to keep in her diary.