Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago. If you decide to take part, please link back to It’s Book Talk.
Today I’m revisiting a book I read in 2017 for a blog tour but was published back in 2015 – The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen by Collins Hemingway. The book re-imagines the life of England’s most well-known female author by exploring what might have happened if she had ever married. It shows how a meaningful, caring relationship would have changed her as a person and a writer. It also takes her beyond England’s tranquil country villages and plunges her into what the Regency era was really about: great explorations and scientific advances, political foment, and an unceasing, bloody war.
About the Book
Everyone should marry once for love – even Jane Austen.
Jane Austen, single and seemingly comfortable in the role of clergyman’s daughter and aspiring writer in the early 1800s, tells friends and family to hold out for true affection in any prospective relationship. Everybody, she says, has a right to marry once in their lives for love. But when, after a series of disappointing relationships, the prospect of true love arrives for her, will she have the courage to act?
In such times, can love – can marriage -triumph?
Praise for The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen
“What if Austen, who penned so many classic love stories, found her own romantic match? Ashton Dennis fits right into the Austen universe, while this Jane remains true to life, an intelligent and determined young woman. The writing is Austen-ian, and Hemingway has a talent for witty banter and wry observations that would make Elizabeth Bennet proud. An enjoyable first novel in an imaginative, well-researched series.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A skilful portrayal of a…literary icon takes this historical romance on an imaginative journey of the soul. … Insight and intuition, along with meticulous research, have created a believable version of her character in this tender story of Ashton and Jane. … Excellent character development enhances the plausibility of the scenario. Background, motivation, eccentricity – everything that constitutes a personality allow these fascinating people to step off the pages in lifelike form.” (Julia Ann Charpentier, Foreword CLARION Reviews, 4 stars)
“All readers of Jane Austen wonder what Jane’s life might have been like had she married, or had money. The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen explores these intriguing possibilities. It also depicts Austen in a rapidly changing world, connecting her to important aspects of the era-war, slavery, industrialization, and new modes of travel. Hemingway’s book raises many ‘what if’s’ in his thoughtful and thought-provoking portrayal of Jane Austen falling in love.” (Susannah Fullerton, author of A Dance with Jane Austen and Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)
“[An] engaging and remarkably convincing romance. …Wry, observant, laconic – much like Jane Austen herself, without ever dipping into pastiche or mimicry. … Hemingway, with the lightest touch, builds up a thoroughly convincing alternative history for Jane. …[A] thoughtful re-imagining of Austen’s love life.” (Joceline Bury, Jane Austen’s Regency World)
Format: Hardcover, ebook, paperback (200 pp.) Publisher: AuthorHouse
Published: 20th June 2015 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Vol.1 on Goodreads
The author has created a fun, light and affectionate tribute to Jane Austen alongside speculating on how her life might have turned out had she married and delivering an engaging historical romance. The book captures the spirit of Jane Austen’s appraising eye of society, its foibles and – to modern day eyes – its bewildering rules of etiquette.
Jane and her sister, Cassandra, despite neither of them being that old, find themselves on the way to being consigned to the ranks of spinsterhood.
‘She was in her own clique, of course, along with Cass, that of women who were stylish, if overly stale. Her invitations no longer came from young men who were on their way up in society but from older men who had stalled or were in decline: unmarried clergy from poorly endowed parishes or lately widowed men of middle age and anxious finance.’
It doesn’t help that their branch of the family is relatively poor and dependent on the support of more well-off relatives for both money and accommodation, moving from house to house of acquaintances and distant family members. As Jane writes, ‘Like travelling minstrels, we earn our victuals by entertaining our hosts and helping with the odd family tasks. One afternoon chasing the children around, two witty rejoinders, and three darned stockings will earn a meal, by my estimation.’
In fact, Jane and Cassandra have begun to think that love and marriage is something they will never experience since both have suffered the tragic loss of men for whom they had felt affection. ‘Cassandra’s expression shaded from thoughtfulness to entreaty and finally pain. “Shall we never find love?” she asked. “Is it over? Are we never to be happy? Never to embrace the kindness of a man, the blessings of a child?”’
However, Jane does have an admirer: Ashton Dennis, a wealthy young man. However, although she likes him she can feel no romantic affinity with him as he has little interest in literature or the arts. His focus seems only to be on the business of running his family’s estate. And Jane could never love or consider marriage to a man like that could she?
When Ashton leaves for the Caribbean to “find himself”, as we might describe it these days, he and Jane strike up a lively, witty correspondence, which makes up Part 2 of the book. Jane provides him with news from home about current affairs and scientific developments. This provides the opportunity for the author to give the reader a fascinating insight into events of the time such as the Louisiana Purchase (the sale of Louisiana by Napoleon to America), the progress through Parliament of the Anti-slavery Bill, and the scientific and technological discoveries of Humphrey Davy and Richard Trevithick. Jane even relates an encounter with the young fossil-hunter, Mary Anning. Over the months he is away, reading Ashton’s letters in response to hers, Jane gradually starts to see a different side to him.
As well as the story of Jane and Ashton, there is much for lovers of Jane Austen’s novels to enjoy with many scenes alluding to plot lines, characters or events in the books (although at the time this book is set she has yet to be published). So, for example, we have Ashton’s warning Jane off any marital interest in him much in the way Lady Catherine de Burgh tries to do with Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice…and taking possession of the most famous line from that book to boot.
“A single man in possession of a good fortune does not automatically need a wife – not from your class. It is a misconception from which both you and your mother suffer.”
The author also captures the witty, acute observations readers have come to expect in Austen’s novels.
On being asked her view of a potential match for Ashton: “She is the sort of person who professes a love of books without reading, and who is lively without wit. Yet – Mr Dennis – I am not the person to ask about marriage. I live on the corner of Old and Unattached.”
On dealing with marriage proposals: ‘Every polished young woman has a dozen stratagems to deflect the purpose of an unwelcome suitor. One practices firm but gentle rebuffs in front of the mirror almost as often as one practices coquettish ways of saying yes to the proper man.’
I also loved this little joke about writing a book as Ashton reacts in amazement that Jane has written a novel that has been accepted for publication: ‘To think that you have spent – what, a year, more? – to compose a work on a single topic, about a set of characters, is beyond my ken. I salute you, madam!’
This was a fun, engaging, well-written book that captured the spirit of Jane Austen’s books and which I really enjoyed. I received a review copy courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest and unbiased review.
In three words: Light, affectionate, romance
Try something similar…Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey (click here to read my review)
About the Author
Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people’s lives and everything that makes them complete though fallible human beings. His fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.
As a non-fiction book author, Hemingway has worked alongside some of the world’s thought leaders on topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he co-authored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging subjects with clarity and insight, writing for the non-technical but intelligent reader. Hemingway has published shorter non-fiction on topics including computer technology, medicine, and aviation, and he has written award-winning journalism.
Published books include The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy, Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates, Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld, What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg, Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz, and The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus.
Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, Wendy. Together they have three adult sons and three granddaughters. He supports the Oregon Community Foundation and other civic organizations engaged in conservation and social services in Central Oregon.
Connect with Collins