I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

4.3 19
by Cora Harrison
     
 

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When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this

Overview

When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this dashing man?
 
But is that even possible? After all, Jenny’s been harboring a most desperate secret. Should it become known, it would bring scandal not only to her, but also to the wonderful Austen family. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?
 
In this delicious dance between truth and fiction, Cora Harrison has crafted Jenny’s secret diary by reading everything Jane Austen wrote as a child and an adult, and by researching biographies, critical studies, and family letters. Jenny’s diary makes the past spring vividly to life and provides insight into the entire Austen family—especially the beloved Jane.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Based on people and events from Austen's adolescence, this book does a better job than most to evoke the feel of the writer's novels. The story begins with Jane and her cousin Jenny at a strict boarding school. Jane falls ill with a fever, but the headmistress refuses to notify her parents, so Jenny slips out late at night to post a letter to Jane's mother. On the streets of Southampton she is nearly accosted by some unsavory characters but finds a protector in gallant naval captain Thomas Williams. Her mission is successful, the girls are removed from the school, but Jenny's secret fear is that Captain Williams will mention seeing her on the streets late at night, thereby ruining her reputation. She assumes that she will never see her rescuer again, but while visiting Jane's family, she and Captain Williams come face to face once again. Harrison takes some liberties with characterization and the ages of characters and downplays Jane's closeness with her sister Cassandra in order to highlight her friendship with Jenny, but has obviously done her research in Austen lore. This novel does a good job of maintaining the feeling of the period, and Hellard's pen-and-ink sketches are the perfect accompaniment to the book's diary format. The story is lighter fare than Austen's novels, but will certainly be enjoyed by younger teens familiar with them as well as readers who enjoy historical romance.—Misti Tidman, formerly at Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY
Publishers Weekly
Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall while Jane Austen grew up, had adventures, and went to balls? Or better yet, her most trusted friend and confidante? Harrison introduces readers to Austen via the chronicles of Jenny Cooper, Austen's "best friend" and an avid diarist. Jenny is sweet and observant, and Harrison evokes the time period in both the mannerisms and attitudes of her characters, as well as what historians know of Austen's life. Yet the diary format does not always lend itself well to plot development. Decorated with line drawings (ostensibly Jenny's) of clothing, people, etc., Jenny's lengthy and detailed internal monologues about a variety of events that take place over several months in 1791 tell more than they demonstrate through dialogue and interaction. The prose is light and accessible, but can be awkward, as in passages that try to convey urgency. Like anything to do with Austen, the promise of romance is never far: Jenny's intrigue for Capt. Thomas Williams is sparked early on, challenged by a flirtation with Jane's handsome brother Henry, and rekindled, of course, at a ball. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Rachel Wadham
For three months of 1791, shy orphan Jenny Cooper recounts in her diary the adventures she has when she and cousin Jane Austen escape a horrible boarding school to live with the Austen family in their country home. In the middle of this busy household, Jenny sticks close to independent, bold Jane as she experiences a whole new world. Attending her first ball in a stunning gown, attracting the attention of eligible men, and dealing with the intricacies of family life, Jenny must navigate scores of strange and wonderful things as she tries to avoid scandal and win the heart of her true love. Beloved by millions, any work that even mentions Jane Austen is sure to have a solid base of fans, but even without this connection, this is a lovely, simple coming-of-age story with a strong historical setting. Extensively researched, the text is firmly grounded in reality. This, combined with Jenny's honest characterization, gives the allusion that this could be something more than a fictionalized account. In addition, simple line drawings, mementos, and snippets of Jane's writing add flair and ambiance to the text. Marred only by a few slips into language that feels far too modern for the time period, the situations and locations are unmistakable and will be pleasingly familiar to readers of Austen's works. Even though the pacing is very slow, with repetitive text and event descriptions that slow it even further, this charming epistolary novel will delight many readers. Reviewer: Rachel Wadham
Kirkus Reviews

From a promising beginning—Jane Austen's best friend Jenny sneaks out of their austere boarding school at midnight to post a letter to the budding author's mother warning of Jane's terrible fever--this effort winds down to pages of syrupy-sweet, diary-format narrative. After being rescued by Jane's parents, Jenny and Jane, 16 and 15, move to the Austen home, site of a lively boys' school. Jenny dreams of the dashing sea captain who befriended her on her night-time foray, attends balls and helps Jane teach a form of sign language to her disabled brother, who is being cared for in the village. Jenny tells all in her "secret diary"—although why it is secret is never clear. When, predictably, the captain shows up at a ball, she wonders if he shares her amorous infatuation and if love can overcome minor obstacles set in their way. Although clearly well researched and embellished with ample historical detail, this vanilla-flavored tale lacks tension. Knowledgeable readers will long for Austen's own writing instead. (Historical romance. 11 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375897535
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
09/28/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
576,934
File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Cora Harrison fell in love with Jane Austen when she first read Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve. She has published many novels for children and adults. She and her husband live on a small farm in the west of Ireland with a very large and rather lunatic German shepherd dog called Oscar and a very small white cat called Polly.


From the Hardcover edition.

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I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing couldnt stop reading it
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Emma McDonnell More than 1 year ago
On of the best books ever!! Really light though
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Orla More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I felt like a teenager again along with Jane and Jenny. I had the most fun when I read the journal entries that described the balls that Jane and Jenny attended. I swear, I felt as if I was there. I could hear the music and the different conversations going on amongst the groups. I really liked the drawings that were a part of some of the entries because I felt that it added a personal touch from Jenny. I recommend this to anyone who wants to enjoy a fun read or escape from this world of turmoil, if for only a moment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly amazing book! it was awesome i could read it over and over!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Away at boarding school together, cousins Jenny Cooper and Jane Austen get into mischief. When Jane falls ill, Jenny knows she must send a letter to her aunt. The school mistress refuses her request, so in the dead of night she escapes to alert her aunt to the severity of Jane's illness. It's improper for a lady to be wandering the streets alone. During her escape, Jenny meets Captain Thomas Williams. He's the perfect gentlemen, escorting her to the post and back to the school. He promises to keep her dreadful secret. Soon, Jane's mother arrives and whisks both girls back to Stevenson. Jenny and Jane continue their education at the Austen home. While there, the girls often speak of love. Jane's sister, Cassandra, loves one of her father's students. Jane herself isn't in love, but she flirts with several boys at the local ball. Jenny believes herself in love Jane's brother, Henry, as he often flirts with her. When she spies Captain Thomas Williams again, she's both nervous for her reputation and very happy to see him. Will she find true love? Jenny's adventures are chronicled in her diary. At the back of the book, the author adds in an Author's Note detailing the changes made for this story. I adore Jane Austen and couldn't wait to read I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND. Jenny chronicles their daily routine, where we get an in-depth look into the Austen's way of life. She also peppers her diary with charming illustrations. I loved reading about Jane's writing, familiar characters that would make their way into said writing, and about Jenny's romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wowwe700 More than 1 year ago
I really love this book. I love Jane Austen, and romance novels, and 18th century England. All of my things in one book (that is actually GOOD) is very rare! It has pictures and everything! I would totally recommend this book to anyone who likes the things I like. Another series you should read if you liked this one is A Great and Terrible Beauty.