Book Review – Jane Austen’s First Love

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I went in reading this book, not knowing at all what to expect. Which was probably a good thing; because I don’t think I would have bothered with it otherwise. I love Jane Austen, but the Jane Austen portrayed in this is not the way I would have imagined her. Even at age 15.

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Image via https://www.tumblr.com/search/becoming%20jane**

The novel is more or less a giggly, childish “love story”, told from the perspective of 15 year old Jane (or Syrie James’ perception thereof), who, having not yet come out and being exceedingly jealous of her older sister, is allowed to accompany her Mother and sister, Cassandra, on a trip to visit her older brother before his wedding in the coming winter. Mrs. Austen loosens the reins on Jane while they’re on their little trip and allows her to attend balls and even “powder her hair”.

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Image via https://www.tenor.co/view/marie-antoinette-shopping-gif-5015713

There seems to be almost a full chapter on the importance of powdering ones hair. Jane is completely hung up on it because Cassandra does it and so do all the other young ladies in their party.
Jane meets the handsome and reckless Mr. Edward Taylor, a neighbour to her uncle and aunt, who sweeps her off her feet when helping her and Cassandra out of their bogged and turned over carriage.

From there on, Jane dissects everything Mr. Taylor does, wondering if he feels the same way about her. As I mentioned before, Jane obsesses over the practice of hair powdering, and when her mother finally gave in and let her partake in this peculiar fashion of the time, Jane is greeted in the ball room with a lecture from Mr. Taylor on the importance of staying true to ones self, that powdering ones hair was a silly, French tradition and so on and so forth. She then comes to the conclusion that of course Mr. Taylor is right and vows to never powder her hair again.

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Image via Disney Create

Jane intervenes and messes with Edward’s (her brother) sisters in law’s engagements and romances because she believes them to be poorly matched (very Emma Woodhouse style) and stuffs everything around for all involved, including herself.

 

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Image via Historical Honey

For me, I just found this version of Jane to be very false. To have her worrying about men and what other people think, meddling in peoples’ lives without a second thought and frittering around being silly (much like Lydia and Kitty with whom she makes fun of) just seemed strange. Even at the age of 15 I’ve always imagined Jane to have quite a steady head. I guess I always pictured her like her more famous heroines, Elizabeth Bennet and Elinor Dashwood, with a little bit of Catherine Morland thrown in the mix. I found it hard to relate because I myself was never that way, at her age, and now really, I didn’t see men as a means to marriage, I saw them as potential friends and confidants, no different to the women in my life. One day I might find a man who I could see myself settling down with (unlikely), but I don’t go out with the agenda of looking for the one. I think Jane (definitely in later life at the least) was more of that mindset too, like Elinor and Elizabeth, no over evaluating and over thinking things.

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Image via http://askastudent.utoronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/joey-confused-o1.gif

All this aside (it is of course, all conjecture as to what Jane Austen was like as a 15 year old anyway), the story is somewhat charming and once I got past the rather childish narrative by Jane and tried to picture her as the lovely Anne Hathaway in place of that annoying little cousin she has in “Becoming Jane“, (you know, Lucy Lefroy, the one who nearly got herself shot by sneaking up on the men in the armoury and shouting out “Tom”? Yeah, that one. That’s my first impression of Jane in this book, not a good one) I didn’t mind the whole story one bit. It was sweet in some instances, albeit a bit bubblegum, but I didn’t hate it, and how could I, it features Jane Austen, a rather strange version of her but still!
I would recommend it to a younger audience though, girls in late primary school to mid high school age. By all means, read it if you’re out of that age group, but I think it better suits that younger audience or people just getting into the regency genre. I hope this helps someone! And sorry to be so critical, I did like it, hence the 4 spades, I just found it hard to see it as Jane :/

 

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