I’m drawn to new books inspired by some of my favourite classic tales, and have particularly enjoyed a selection of novels inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
I’ve read Amanda Grange’s Mr Darcy’s Diary, Colleen McCullough’s The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, Jo Baker’s Longbourn, PD James’s Death Comes to Pemberley and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary – even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith — as well as countless stories inspired by Austen’s other novels.
I was therefore intrigued and delighted when offered the opportunity to read and review Jane in Love (Michael Collins / Penguin Random House Australia), the debut novel by Australian screenwriter and filmmaker Rachel Givney, which imagines the life of beloved English Regency-era novelist Jane Austen – and adds a fantastical twist with the introduction of a time-travel plot line.
This warmly witty novel borrows much from Austen’s writing and fans will recognise characters in Givney’s tale who bear a close resemblance to characters made familiar in Austen’s novels and the film and television adaptations of those stories.
When an arranged meeting with an eligible bachelor leaves 28-year-old Jane still single, and her family again disappointed, Jane seeks a place of sanctuary and is introduced to a mysterious matchmaker who promises to help her find true love.
At this point, the reader must suspend disbelief, as an ancient incantation transports Jane through time to the 21st Century and the set of a film adaptation of Northanger Abbey.
Amid confusion surrounding her identity, Jane meets film star Sofia, who is being relegated from leading lady to character actress, and Sofia’s brother Fred Wentworth. Fans of Austen’s work will recognise the significance of the introduction of Fred.
As the narrative unfolds, Jane learns she is the author of six cherished novels that continue to resonate with readers, critics and academics 200 years after her death – but her presence in the modern world jeopardises the creation of these works.
Jane’s friendship with Sofia grows and her feelings for Fred deepen, and she must make the agonising choice between the pursuit of her writing dream or the fulfilment of her dream of finding true love.
Jane in Love is a charming tale of love, friendship, literature and self-discovery – perfect for fans of Austen and those who enjoy sweet historical romance novels.
Jane in Love, by Rachel Givney. Imprint: Michael Joseph / Penguin Random House Australia.