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Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict    by Laurie Viera Rigler Amazon.com order for
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
by Laurie Viera Rigler
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Plume, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I have never read a Jane Austen novel, and most likely never will. However, this did not prevent me from enjoying Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

No matter how bad life is for Courtney Stone, Jane Austen has always been there for her. After a bad break-up, Courtney takes solace in the comforts of Pride and Prejudice, only to wake up the next morning in 19th century England. Not only is she out of her time period and home country, she is in another body that of Miss Jane Mansfield, a woman verging on spinsterhood who has just suffered a serious concussion. When protesting that she does not belong only leads to painful medical practices, Courtney gives up and decides to play Jane.

But living almost two hundred years in the past takes a lot of getting used to. The additional leisure time is nice, but cannot make up for the lack of indoor plumbing, dearth of fashions, and constant hovering of mothers and other such chaperones, all intent on preserving a woman's reputation and ensuring that she maks a good match. This, of course, drives 21st century Courtney crazy as she tries to speak up for women's rights. She finally realizes - almost too late - that her antics may have repercussions for Jane, who not only has to live with her society's rules and customs, but is also used to them.

Rigler uses the premise of time travel in order to look at Jane Austen's England through modern eyes, which picks up many differences not easily found through just studying fiction. Courtney is most shocked - at least at first - by the smells of the 19th century, especially because Austen never wrote about them (but then again, why would she since it was the norm for her time period and she probably did not think anything smelled amiss?)

But while the time travel aspect does help to bring out just how much society has changed in the last two centuries, it adds a bit of confusion to the story. Even when Courtney's entrance into Jane's mind is explained, the details are still murky. To me, it seemed that rather than Courtney swapping lives back in time, Jane is somehow able to tap into a future incarnation - and because of the concussion, that personality is trying to come forth. If the time travel aspect of the story were just a little clearer, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict would be a stellar novel.

As it is, Laurie Viera Rigler's Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict is a fun read that would make an excellent book club choice, possibly in conjunction with a Jane Austen novel. It opens up a wide variety of great topics for discussion, such as the details of Courtney's time travel, as well as similarities and differences between 19th century writing about the 19th century, and 21st century writing about the 19th century.

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