Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend: A Secret Diary by Cora Harrison

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend: A Secret Diary by Cora Harrison
Macmillan Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330509534
Published Jan 7, 2011
Trade Paperback, 352 pages

I loved reading this charming novel! It's a story (mostly in diary format) based on Jane Austen's cousin Jenny Cooper who lived with the Austen family at Steventon in the year in which Jenny met Captain Thomas Williams. Of course, the author took creative license to form both the characters of a teenage Jane Austen and her shy and pretty cousin Jenny, who was instrumental in saving Jane's life when she fell ill at boarding school.

This is how the story begins actually and it drew me right in. Jenny is an orphan still grieving the loss of her mother and under the care of her brother whose wife Augusta dislikes Jenny and makes trouble for her. Jenny is taken in by the Austens when both she and Jane are removed from under the wicked supervision of Mrs. Cawley. Jenny thrives in her new home and grows up in the year that she stays with the Austens and finds true love along the way.

Jane and her cousin Jenny couldn't be more different. Jane is clever, witty and a little wild, whereas Jenny is more introverted and not used to all the male attention from Jane's brothers. She has much to learn about men and their courting ways. And Jane is more than willing to give Jenny advice on love and how to win the heart of a dashing young man! But it is the very sophisticated Cousin Eliza from France who teaches both girls a thing or two.

Of course, the story wouldn't be enticing to Austen fans without the world of beautiful dresses, balls, secrets, gossip and romance. There is plenty of that. This is a character-driven book and the author truly captures the individuality of each character. Black and white illustrations are interspersed throughout the novel since Jenny loves to draw and make sketches in her diary, thus giving the reader a more intimate look into her feelings.

There is only one thing that disappointed me a little. As the story moves toward an emotional confrontation with Augusta who holds Jenny's future in the balance, nothing really happens in the end. It was somewhat anticlimactic in this regard. How was the problem with Augusta resolved? How is the accusation against Jenny finally dealt with by Augusta? Augusta was just brushed aside and kept out of Jenny's way by the Austens, but I personally think that if Jenny would've finally confronted her by standing up to her it would have been a better ending, especially since she no longer had a reason to fear her hateful sister-in-law anymore.

Nevertheless, this does not really detract from the overall story, which gave us a good picture of life in the Austen household and evokes the same feeling as reading a light Jane Austen novel. This is a book any Jane Austen fan is sure to enjoy.  

Note: This book is rated C = clean read.
I will count this book toward the following challenges: Young Adult Reading Challenge

Reviewed by Laura

Disclosure: Thanks to Shannon Parsons from HarperCollins for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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  1. This sounds like a cute read. I love a book written in diary form. It is like peeking into someone's secret thoughts!

  2. Sounds worth checking out, even with the lackluster ending.

  3. A crummy ending can ruin a book for me, but I'd be willing to try this one. I love books told in diary format.

  4. You're quite right about the ending - it should have been made plain that it is just volume one of the story and Jenny's problems with her brother and her brother's wife form a large part of the second book. I do regret that this was not made clear at the end of volume one. I hope that you can read and enjoy volume 2.
    Thank you for a very nice review.
    Cora Harrison.

  5. Cora, thanks so much for stopping by my blog and clarifying the ending. I'm so excited that there is a sequel! I will definitely read volume two and look forward to how you will tackle Jenny's problem with Augusta.

  6. I still want to read this one even though the ending was lacking. Sounds like a good book to add to my Austen obsession!!!

  7. I would read this one for the cover alone. It sounds delightful... and I think I could get past the ending.


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