The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

4.1 52
by Syrie James

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Many rumors abound about a mysterious gentleman said to be the love of Jane's life—finally, the truth may have been found. . . .

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


Many rumors abound about a mysterious gentleman said to be the love of Jane's life—finally, the truth may have been found. . . .

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.

Jane Austen has given up her writing when, on a fateful trip to Lyme, she meets the well-read and charming Mr. Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. Inspired by the people and places around her, and encouraged by his faith in her, Jane begins revising Sense and Sensibility, a book she began years earlier, hoping to be published at last.

Deft and witty, written in a style that echoes Austen's own, this unforgettable novel offers a delightfully possible scenario for the inspiration behind this beloved author's romantic tales. It's a remarkable book, irresistible to anyone who loves Jane Austen—and to anyone who loves a great story.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
You don't have to be a Jane Austen expert to enjoy this book. You just need to be in the mood for a page-turning, romantic story filled with warm characters, great passions, enjoyable language, and a terrific plot. And it's to James's credit that her novel reads a lot like -- what else? -- a classic Austen novel.

In the novel's foreword, a fictitious editor discloses that Austen's memoirs have recently been discovered. Jane's memoirs, she says, prove that Austen had a secret romance of her own in her 30s. In the following pages, readers are treated to an imaginative rendition of an initial encounter and subsequent romance between Jane, who longs to be a published writer but doubts her own abilities, and Mr. Ashford, a man who both loves and believes in her. Along the way, our fictitious editor offers suggestions -- in the form of footnotes -- that this love affair inspired many of Austen's characters and plotlines. And readers can't help but wonder, Wouldn't it be great to know Jane had such a person in her life? No, you don't have to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. But be prepared -- you'll want to read (or reread) all of her novels once you finish this ingenious and delightful book. (Spring 2008 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

James speculates in her easy-reading debut on a romance between Austen and a landed British gentleman. The prologue presents the narrative as a long-lost journal Austen kept between 1815 and 1817, recently discovered during a renovation at Chawton Manor House and annotated by Oxford University Austen scholar Mary I. Jesse, whose footnotes appear throughout. The first-person account describes how Mr. Ashford, the son of a baronet, saves the spinster writer from a climbing accident after her father's death. The two meet again in Southampton, and Mr. Ashford encourages Austen to fulfill her dream of becoming a "renowned novelist" and even supplies the name of "Dashwood" when she is working on Sense and Sensibility. Austen and Mr. Ashford seem a perfect match in matters of head and heart (both have read Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Dr. Samuel Johnson), but James portrays them as doomed lovers, and though she hews closely to the historic record, she creates a modicum of will-they-or-won't-they suspense that culminates with a proposal and an "intensely" kissed Austen. It's a pleasant addition to the ever-expanding Austen-revisited genre. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

After nearly two centuries of speculation, a hidden memoir by the adored Austen reveals the existence of a romance that was most likely fodder for her novels and the basis for her romantic heroes. Or so novelist James, also a screenwriter, would have us believe. Following the death of her father, Jane and her mother and her sister are relegated to the position of "poor relations," staying intermittently with her brothers and theirfamilies. On a trip to Lyme with her brother Henry, Jane meets Mr. Frederick Ashford, heir to Pembroke Hall in Derby. There is an instant connection, but their acquaintance is cut short when he is suddenly called home. It is quite some time before they meet again, in Southampton, where Jane is now living. And for three weeks, the pair are inseparable, leaving the spinsterish Jane with hopes of marriage to someone who appreciates and encourages her writing. Things don't go as expected, and once again Jane is left hurt and disillusioned. But her feelings roil within her and feed into her characters. This fascinating novel will make readers swear there was such a man as Mr. Ashford and that there is such a memoir. The text includes footnotes and even an editor's foreword and afterword, though, in truth, there is no editor. Tantalizing, tender, and true to the Austen mythos, James's book is highly recommended.
—Bette-Lee Fox

Los Angeles Times
“James creates a life story for Austen that illuminates how her themes and plots may have developed... the reader blindly pulls for the heroine… hoping against history that Austen might yet enjoy the satisfactions of romance... offers a deeper understanding of what Austen’s life might have been like.”
Santa Barbara Independent
“Suspenseful... and filled with surprises... one of the best additions to the current spate of books featuring Jane Austen.”
Writer's Flow
“James has taken on an enormous task-channel Austen and bring her back to life-and she has done just that ... Talk about a love story. Whether or not it happened, James has created the possibility in an intelligent, historical romance novel. I do believe that Jane would approve.”
Romance Reader At Heart.Com
“Rarely have I read a book that I enjoyed as much ... I honestly believe even Jane herself would have loved this book... It’s written so well, and stays so true to form for the historical period, that it feels uncannily like a real memoir ... utterly delightful!”
News Review
“There are not enough accolades i could use to recommend this book ... I read it thinking all the while it was a newly discovered memoir of the famous writer. That is how good the writing is... It is a love affair equal to anything Jane Austen wrote.”
“Captures all that is best and true about Jane Austen … You will find yourself caught and enchanted ... For die-hard Austenites, this is the book you’ve been waiting for; for those of you wishing for knowledge of how to be a writer like Austen, you can find that, too.”
Montgomery Advertiser
“Readers may find themselves forgetting that the book is fiction… James bases her book on facts from Austen’s life and … clearly depicts Austen’s witty imagination and keen intelligence… Readers may want to pour themselves a cup of tea before settling in with this novel… It’s a delightful read.”
Savvy Verse &
“A fantastic addition to all things Jane … one of those books that must go into the pile that I will read again and again … James does a beautiful job weaving together elements of fact, fiction, and imagination, which made this reader believe in the truth of her fiction.”
Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine
“James…[has] a sensitive ear for the Austenian voice and a clear passion for research...a thoughtful, immensely touching romance that does justice to its subject and will delight anyone who feels...that Austen couldn’t have written with such insight without having had a great romance of her own.”
News Observer
“James’s book imagines a Mr. Ashford for Jane, a man with whom she shares a good deal of passion in the two years preceding the publication of Sense and Sensibility ... And if she didn’t she should have, as it makes for a compelling read.”
The Writer's Road Less Traveled
“The writing style was so effortlessly Austen that I almost felt as if I truly was reading a memoir penned by her own hand. And while these lost memoirs were just a fabrication, Ms. James did a terrific job of melding the historical details from Ms. Austen’s life.
Dear Author.Com
“A story that not only leaves you believing ‘it could have happened,’ but wishing ‘oh… I hope she had this’ ... I was wholly engaged from beginning to end ... When I closed the cover (the very tactilely pleasing cover) … I felt as though I’d made a friend.” (Athens)
"A delicious novel... comic scenes of hilarity together with love scenes of great emotion, witty dialogue, and well-drawn characters. Jane Austen comes alive from the first page to the last. You truly believe that you are reading her long-lost memoirs, not a historical fiction novel."
“A delicious novel... comic scenes of hilarity together with love scenes of great emotion, witty dialogue, and well-drawn characters. Jane Austen comes alive from the first page to the last. You truly believe that you are reading her long-lost memoirs, not a historical fiction novel.”
Best First Novel of 2008
“This fascinating novel will make readers swear there was such a man as Mr. Ashford and that there is such a memoir... Tantalizing, tender, and true to the Austen mythos, James’s book is highly recommended.”

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The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

By Syrie James

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Syrie James
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061341427

Chapter One

Why I feel the sudden urge to relate, in pen and ink, a relationship of the most personal nature, which I have never before acknowledged, I cannot say. Perhaps it is this maddening illness which has been troubling me now and again of late—this cunning reminder of my own mortality—that compels me to make some record of what happened, to prevent that memory from vanishing into the recesses of my mind, and from there to disappear for ever from history, as fleeting as a ghost in the mist.

Whatever the reason, I find that I must write it all down; for there may, I think, be speculation when I am gone. People may read what I have written, and wonder: how could this spinster, this woman who, to all appearances, never even courted—who never felt that wondrous connection of mind and spirit between a man and woman, which, inspired by friendship and affection, blooms into something deeper—how could she have had the temerity to write about the revered institutions of love and courtship, having never experienced them herself?

To those few friends and relations who, upon learning of my authorship, have dared to pose a similar question (although, I must admit, in a rather more genteel turn ofphrase), I have given the self-same reply: "Is it not conceivable that an active mind and an observant eye and ear, combined with a vivid imagination, might produce a literary work of some merit and amusement, which may, in turn, evoke sentiments and feelings which resemble life itself?"

There is much truth in this observation.

But there are many levels of veracity, are there not, between that truth which we reveal publicly and that which we silently acknowledge, in the privacy of our own thoughts, and perhaps to one or two of our most intimate acquaintances?

I did attempt to write of love—first, in jest, as a girl; then in a more serious vein, in my early twenties, though I had known only young love then;1 in consequence, those early works were of only passing merit. It was only years later that I met the man who would come to inspire the true depth of that emotion, and who would reawaken my voice, which had long lain dormant.

Of this gentleman—the one, true, great love in my life—I have, for good reason, vowed never to speak; indeed, it was agreed amongst the few close members of my family who knew him, that it was best for all concerned to keep the facts of that affair strictly to ourselves. In consequence, I have relegated my thoughts of him to the farthest reaches of my heart; banished for ever—but not forgotten.

No, never forgotten. For how can one forget that which has become a part of one's very soul? Every word, every thought, every look and feeling that passed between us, is as fresh in my mind now, years later, as if it had occurred only yesterday.

The tale must be told; a tale which will explain all the others.

But I get ahead of myself.

It is a truth (I believe, universally acknowledged) that, with few exceptions, the introduction of the hero in a love-story should never take place in the first chapter, but should, ideally, be deferred to the third; that a brief foundation should initially be laid, acquainting the reader with the principal persons, places, circumstances and emotional content of the story, so as to allow a greater appreciation for the proceedings as they unfold.

Therefore, before we meet the gentleman in question, I must go further back to relate two events which occurred some years earlier—both of which altered my life, suddenly and irrevocably, in a most dreadful and painful way.

In December 1800, shortly before the twenty-fifth anniversary of my birth, I had been away, visiting my dear friend Martha Lloyd. Upon returning home, my mother startled me by announcing, "Well, Jane, it is all settled! We have decided to leave Steventon behind us for good, and go to Bath."

"Leave Steventon?" I stared at her in disbelief. "You cannot mean it."

"Oh, but I do," said my mother as she bustled happily about the small parlour, pausing to study the pictures on the wall with a look of fond farewell, as if making peace with the thought of leaving them all behind. "Your father and I talked it over while you were gone. He will be seventy in May. It is high time he retired, after nearly forty years as the rector of this parish, not to mention Deane.2 Giving up the post, you know, means giving up the house, but your brother James will benefit by it, as it will go to him; and as your father has always longed to travel, we thought, what better time than the present? Let us go, while we still have our health! But where we should go, that was a matter of great debate, and we have at last come to conclusion that it should be Bath!"

My head began to swim; my legs crumpled under me, and I sank heavily into the nearest chair, wishing that my beloved sister was there to share the burden of this distressing news. Cassandra, who is three years older than I, and far more beautiful, is possessed of a calm and gentle disposition; I can always depend on her to rally my spirits in even the worst of situations. But she was away at the time, visiting our brother Edward and his family in Kent.

"Jane!" I heard my mother cry. "Why, I believe the poor girl has fainted. Mr. Austen! Do come help! Where are the smelling-salts?"

I had been born at Steventon, and had passed all the happy days of my life there. I could no more imagine leaving that beloved place than I could sprout wings and fly. I loved the trellised front porch of the parsonage house, the perfectly balanced arrangement of sash windows in its flat front façade, and the unadorned, white-washed walls and open-beam ceilings within. I had grown to cherish every elm, chestnut and fir which towered above its roof, and every plant and shrub in the back garden, where I strolled almost daily along the turf walk, bordered by strawberry beds.


Excerpted from The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James Copyright © 2007 by Syrie James. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women's National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) Translation rights for Syrie's books have been sold in sixteen languages. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer's Guild of America.

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The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Jenafyre21 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story.  Anyone that loves Jane Austen will love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish
Danny_R22 More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed this book! The cover is fantastic and is what drew me to it. It was the first book that I cried at the end. I found that I had to remind myself to stop reading so that I could eat and sleep. lol. I thought that it would be like Becoming Jane, the movie, but found that it wasn't at all. Definitely a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Congrats to James for weaving a wonderfully entertaining and thoroughly researched historical fiction! The author makes Austen and her world come alive! I passed the book to several of my fellow Jane Austen fans and we all loved this novel! We are looking forward to James' next release, on Bronte!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kudos to Syrie James for reincarnating Jane Austen. It was a delicious feeling to read the back story, to be transported to the romance and manners of Jane¿s world. The author¿s thorough research shows in the detailed descriptions of places and people. The author perfectly captures Jane¿s style of writing--her thoughts, her feelings, her values. I loved the book and recommend it most highly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author Syrie James's personal & professional accomplishments serve her well in her reverent presentation of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Her website brims with such a diversity of talents that one does not question why she is qualified to write about such a sensitive subject, but rather why she waited so long! Even Jane Austen's discerning character Mr. Darcy might consider her one of the 12 most accomplished women of his acquaintance. Breaching the hollowed halls of Jane Austen para-literature is a daunting task for none but the stout-of-heart and thick-of-skin writer. Mrs. James wears her Austen-armor well and delivers a sincere and honest love story that will engage and delight most Jane Austen devotees, and raise an inquisitive eyebrow of the Austen purists. Her Jane is real and approachable, flesh and bone, human and fallible -- not the stour judgemental old maid envisioned in the 19th-century portraits. We feel her troubles, her joy, her pain, understand her life decisions, and appreciate her all the more for it. It is not often that this discerning reader can offer unqualified praise, so I will not break my streak. Five Austen stars!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly, this is one of the most heartfelt stories I've had the pleasure to read in a really long, long time. This is not only the story of a secret romance, but of a writer who overcomes her doubts and her daily concerns for financial security to fully embrace the need to put pen to paper and write the stories from her heart and head. I happened to finish to the book on a plane and was in tears, which may have concerned my fellow flight-mates! But the story was over too soon and I look forward to many more stories from Ms. James.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Historians and romance readers have always wondered whether Jane Austen, author of six novels and many letters, kept a dairy as none were found yet that was popular in early nineteenth century England. None were found until now. In Chawton Manor House, one of the homes owned by Ms. Austen¿s brother, a worker repairing a roof found a seaman¿s chest inside are manuscripts of the previously LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN. The chest was probably left there and forgotten by Jane¿s beloved sister Cassandra who admitted to having destroyed much of the letters written by Jane to her. This particular publication is one manuscript whose condition is excellent but written when the great author was ill and dying sometime in 1815-1817, but relates to events from an earlier time. --- With the death of her father Reverend George Austen in 1805, his suddenly impoverished daughter Jane gave up writing, a pastime she enjoyed since she had already expected to be a spinster having never met a man she considered her intellectual equal. That is until the summer of 1810 in Lime when she meets witty and intelligent Mr. Ashford she is excited by this handsome charmer who inspires her to return to writing by revising a novel she had drafted years ago but never finished (Sense and Sensibility). --- Every time this reviewer assumes there is no new way to dissect Jane Austen, I am proven clueless by an author with a new spin. Syrie James is the latest to pay homage (some might say chutzpah) as she uses the device of finding a long forgotten hidden journal written by the author to tell the tale of Ms. Austen¿s inspirational romance that led to her completing her great novels. Readers will believe Syrie James captures the voice of Ms. Austen with this fictionalized entertaining account by romantic literature¿s first author ¿in her words¿. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the opening pages of this novel, I was so deeply engrossed that I couldn't put it down. It is so beautifully written that you truly believe you are reading the memoirs of Jane Austen herself, and being offered a privileged glimpse into her heart and mind. The novel explores many of the experiences that shaped Jane Austen's life and evolution as a writer. At the same time, it is a wonderful love story. Readers will fall as madly in love with Mr. Ashford as Jane does. He is, in my opinion, even more dashing, likeable and charming than Austen's Mr. Darcy! The joy is in watching these two soul mates, who are believably drawn to each other at first sight, discover the many interests and tastes they have in common as 'despite plot complications' they fall deeply in love over time. You don't have to be a Jane Austen fan, or even be familiar with her books or movies, to enjoy this novel. It is so well done! I loved the lively and witty dialog 'very much in Jane Austen's voice', the moments of heartfelt emotion and humor, and the beautifully-drawn characters. Many are Jane Austen's real life friends and relatives, and others are inspired by several of her most beloved fictitious characters. The loving and close relationship between Jane and her sister Cassandra is particularly well- depicted. The novel simply brims with original plot and action, as well as depictions of true events from Jane Austen's life. There are also a few clever scenes or brief moments that are reminiscent of moments from Jane Austen's novels, and that is a great part of the fun. Not only is the source for these moments always acknowledged, but they always have a completely different spin or twist or ending, and it's clear that they are there for a specific reason: to imply that these personal experiences inspired Jane to later write about them. In this respect, part of the plot of this novel is a bit like the Oscar-winning movie 'Shakespeare in Love,' which was all about Shakespeare creating 'Romeo and Juliet' while experiencing certain elements of that love story first-hand. In every way, 'The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen' is brilliantly conceived, cleverly executed, and a pure delight. It's as if the missing seventh Jane Austen novel was just discovered, and it's her own personal love story. I can't wait to read it again!
CathyB More than 1 year ago
Imagine if you found the Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Would reading them be any different than reading Ms. James novel? Probably, but I think only a true Jane Austen scholar would be able to discern the difference. Ms. James offers us a glimpse into the soul of Jane Austen. If you close your eyes, the events that shaped her life and ultimately her writing would unfold before your eyes. Many of the events and characters are reminiscent of those from Ms. Austen's own fictional writing. Ms. James always gives credit where credit is due and these scenes/characters are commented upon and their fictional reference identified. If you want something 'lite' to read, this is a book for you. I recommend it whether or not you are Jane Austen fan.
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Karen56 More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read. Syrie James has a true gift to write! I can't wait for other novels by her to come out!
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When I first picked this book up it was just to kill time. I love Jane Austen and thought hey why not. Once I started this book I could not put it down. I really felt like I could have been reading Jane Austen diary. I would recommend this book for any Jane Austen fan.
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