Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Challenge 8 - Real and Inspired Entries

Challenge Description: Many authors or books inspire others to pay homage to them by writing another book inspired by the original work. For this challenge, read both an original work and a book inspired by that original work. Write about both books in one post.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James

What, if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart.

In her foreword Syrie James writes " I felt a great responsibility to remain true to Jane Austen's known history, and to accurately represent not only her, but her real-life friends and family members." and how beautifully she has succeeded in doing that. The love and respect she feels for her subject are evident in every paragraph as she writes , not only about Jane, but as Jane herself.

The memoir is being written in Jane's later years when she is ill and feels the need "to relate, in pen and ink, a relationship of the most personal nature".
It is while staying in Lyme in the early 1800's that Jane meets her true love, the well-read and charming Mr Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. Despite their love there would be no happy ending and their hopes for marriage must be sacrificed because of Mr Ashford's family obligations.
At this time Jane had given up her writing and her dream of being a published author but Mr Ashford's faith in her work inspires her to begin revising Sense and Sensibility. There would be many changes as Jane transfers her now awakened feelings of love and passion into the hearts of her characters.
It's not only a love story but also a picture of the daily and social world that Jane, her mother and sister moved in ,which vividly brings the Regency period to life. An era when it wasn't easy to be an unmarried woman , a woman with a dream of having her books published.

The novel is a blend of fiction and fact and the author has added many footnotes to the pages explaining the references to passages from Jane's books and her personal papers. There are also lots of extras to interest the reader- an Austen family tree, a study guide and Jane quotations, an author interview and a book list.

Meticulously researched and written in a style so like that of Jane Austen I was totally captivated from the beginning with this entrancing story despite the fact I'm not keen on spin-offs. I would wholeheartedly recommend it not only to Austen lovers but for those who may think Jane Austen is not for them as an ideal introduction to her world.

In 1811, Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen's books to be published . It tells the story of two very different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Elinor is practical and disciplined, Marianne is capricious and emotional and with a difficult and impoverished family both of them struggle to achieve happiness. They have to learn to balance their emotional needs with the realities of their life. The book has all the romance, misfortunes and witty social commentary that lovers of Jane Austen know so well.


  1. I do wonder, if Austen would have been happily married and settled, would she have written these wonderful books?

  2. Interesting! I found you on the blog hop! Great website you have here :)

  3. I just finished this one and loved it. It was a treat for an Austen lover to find a book that mimics her voice so well.

  4. There seems to be something about Jane Austen that just inspires a bazillion homages or inspired by books. Seems like you got one of the better ones.