Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma...these titles conjure up a romantic world of rolling English countrysides, elegant balls, noble gentlemen, and headstrong gentlemen's daughters. But how much do we know about the woman who immortalized those times and names like Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennett? Growing up in a clergyman's home gave Jane Austen opportunities to watch human nature at its best--and worst. Drawing from historical sources as well as her own keen imagination, Christy Award-winner Nancy Moser transports readers inside the life and times of the literary world's most beloved heroine. Known for her moving and unique Mozart's Sister, Nancy Moser brings to life the mind and wit of Jane Austen--the loves, disappointments, and victories that shaped the novels that have remained popular for nearly two hundred years.
|Publisher:||Bethany House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Read an Excerpt
It is a true thing everyone knows that-
I scratch out the words, dip my pen into the well of ink, and try again. It is not the first time I have scribbled and scratched, obliterating one word or phrase while searching for another. I long for the correct word, the indisputable one-and-only connection of words that will capture the essence of my intention. Yet these unfound words tease me by hiding in the shadows of my mind, just out of reach, being naughty and bothersome and-
I quickly put pen to paper, eager to capture the phrase before it returns to hiding: It is a truth universally acknowledged... Yes, yes, that is the phrase that has eluded me. I dip the pen again, finally ready to complete the part of the sentence that has never been in question.
...that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
I sit back in my chair of walnut, feeling absurdly prideful I have completed this one line. And yet, it is an important line. The first line of a book. Actually, it is not a book yet. Would it ever by chance be a book?
I peer out the window of the rectory. My mother is bent over her beloved garden, plucking weeds from her asters and lavender hydrangea. I should go help her.
But I do not want to venture out. Mine is not a penchant for plantings and pinchings, but for pronouns and prepositions.
Mother stands and arches her back. I suffer her moan without hearing it. She looks in my direction and I offer a wave, which she returns. A lesser-or would it be grander?-mother would observe the gaze of a child who possesses two able hands and immediately summon her outside to assist with the work. But my dear mother (andfather too), in spite of having no necessity to do so, condone and even encourage my writing. That it will never amount to anything, that the eyes of family will be the only eyes that will fall upon my carefully chosen "truth universally acknowledged," is also recognized, accepted, yet ignored as unimportant.
"Express yourself, dear child" has always been an invocation in the Austen household, and my sister Cassandra (two years my elder) and my six brothers (all but one older than myself) have always been eager to embrace the unspoken possibilities enmeshed within our parents' entreaty. We do our best to be who we might be-in all our grace, geniality, and glib foolery. That some are more glib and fool than graceful and genial is also not considered a complete disgrace. A person content to be bland will never be anyone's first choice as a companion for an idle afternoon.
Mother goes back to work, releasing me from any hint of guilt. I return to my rich gentleman in want of a wife. If only it were true. We Englishwomen of 1795 have no recourse but to assume it is so. Pray it is so. For how else will we ever prosper? Cassandra and I often huddle together in our shared bed, whispering in the darkness about the inequities of inheritance. How unfair that only the male of the species is permitted to inherit. Alas, the females of our world-if they do not find themselves a willing rich man-are bequeathed a life of obligation, forever beholden to the kind heart of some charitable relative to provide a roof that does not leak, a fireplace that does not smoke, and a meal that might occasionally contain meat. Such is our lot if we do not marry well.
I myself can say with some measure of pride that at age twenty, I have prospects. Or at least one prospect. And after all, a woman only needs but one if he be the right one. His name is Tom Lefroy. He is a charming Irishman, the nephew of a neighbour I saw at a ball last Christmas. His eyes are as blue as the Hampshire sky....
We danced every dance. When he took my hand to instigate a cross, rather than merely letting my hand sit gently upon his own, he squeezed it with subtle meaning. And when we slid by, one past the other, shoulder passing shoulder, we did not look straight ahead, as others with less intent would do, but turned our heads inwards, our chins glancing upon our shoulders, as our eyes glanced upon each other. With but an instant for conversation, we resorted to single words, words full of teasing. And entreaty.
"Beautiful," he whispered as his shoulder skimmed mine.
"Rascal," was my reply next pass.
"Determined." He offered a wink.
The dance proceeded to other movements, silencing our verbal banter. Two dozen couples rose upon their toes, then lowered themselves to just height as they swept up and back, not one step missed, all ably immersed in the elegance of a common sway and parry.
To others it may have been a lark, an amusement on a cold December evening, but for Tom and me it was a sparring, a deliberate caracole, turning, ever-turning towards each other and away, despairing of steps that forced time and space between us. I became heady with the sustained implication, as well as the anticipation of more.
But suddenly, as one dance ended and the musicians began the prelude for another, Tom took my hand and said, "Let us hide away."
He pulled me into the foyer, to a bench leaning back against the wall of the mighty staircase but slightly hidden by a tall stand set with a porcelain urn. We fell onto the seat, a jumble of conspiracy, motion, and laughter.
"There," he said, setting himself aright. "Now I have you where I want you."
Before I had time to respond, he leaned forward and kissed me.
Now...I put my fingers to my lips, hoping their light pressure will help me remember the one and only....
I do admit that Tom and I behaved in a most shocking manner, dancing with no thought or eyes to another, sitting down together, head to head, knee to knee, discussing Tom Jones , and laughing in a way that caused many a matronly stare. That we did not care was shameless. Yet I would not change one moment of our time-which was too fleeting.
Before the third ball, I visited the Lefroy home in Ashe on the auspices of visiting Tom's aunt Anne, a dear friend. Of course, I had hoped to see Tom...just to see him would have fed and sustained me, like partaking in one meal, all the while knowing there will be another.
But Tom had fled the house-as if avoiding me? And though I enjoyed my visit with Anne, it did not hold the delicious delicacies I had expected. I now hold on to the hope that Tom was truly called away. Or did he flee because his family teased him about our attraction? Families can be relentless and cruel even as they try to be delightful.
The next day, my feast was complete, as Tom came to call. The presence of his little cousin George was not the ideal-and was a surprise I did not quite understand-but I was so pleased to partake of Tom's presence that I told myself I did not mind. And yet...I sigh when I allow myself to imagine the meeting I would have desired versus the one that transpired with a thirteen-year-old chaperon who talked about nonsense when I wanted to talk about...other things of far more import.
When a fourth ball was planned at Ashe, I held hopes that it was called to honour our upcoming match. In my anticipation I prepared many sets of dialogue that revealed how I would have the evening play out. Tom and I would return to our own special corner behind the urn. As he made his intentions known, he would combine his wit and charm with an eloquence that would impress me to such a degree that I would find myself willing to marry him just in hopes of hearing such eloquence again. And again.
Ah, the burdens of imagination. When the evening did not play out according to my carefully created dialogue and staging, my disappointment grew to such an extent that others asked of my infirmity. I found a quiet hall and gave myself a good talking to, faulting myself, chiding myself. For in spite of my intense wishes, it is a known fact that people are not characters in a story, bidden by my whim to act and be according to how I wish them to act and be.
A few days after this fourth ball, dear Tom was sent away to London to continue his law studies. He had spoken of them, so I was not surprised. Not completely surprised. He had also spoken of the pressures of being the oldest male of his generation. His father had married for love, lost his inheritance, and as such, had no fortune to pass along. But Tom's great-uncle Benjamin in London...ah, there is the fortune he needs to cultivate. It is the prudent thing to do for Tom's future-and my own. It is not unusual for the responsibilities and expectations of his gender to take precedent over the needs and desires of a young female with aspiring plans of her own. One's future must be nurtured and finalized to the best of one's ability, in fate's time, not our own.
Yet even with my dashed expectations at the final ball, and my disappointment in Tom's leaving, I take heart in knowing that our initial banter had grown to include some measure of substance. Enough substance that a future together is more than just a girlish inkling or a plot in a story.
And my expectations are recognized beyond my own hopeful wishes. My brother Henry's friend, who was here to visit over Christmas, presented me with a portrait of Tom, drawn by his own hand, assuming, of course, that I would delight in it. Which I do. I hold on to that portrait, as it is the only Tom I have seen since during these ten long months he has been gone. I expect him to visit our home in Steventon soon, with the proposition to share our future forthcoming. He will go far, my Tom, and I will be a good wife.
I think of him, the oldest boy, the eldest son of twelve children, with five older sisters....
Five older sisters, all in want of a husband.
Female names interrupt my thoughts of Tom, listing themselves as though they are real and have but to make my acquaintance: Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Lydia, and Catherine-no, Kitty...I nod, accepting their introduction, for each seems just right.
Five girls, each in want of a husband. Is this how I can dislodge my story from its hard-fought first line? I will begin with the sisters discussing their lot, chattering over the need for a gentleman who is, of course, in need of them.
It is as good a place as any to begin. At a beginning.
Copyright @2007 Nancy Moser, published by Bethany House Publishers
What People are Saying About This
Just Jane is a wonderful book for any Austen fan. It gives a glimpse of her as a real person – flaws and all.www.trashionista.com
It is a book about knowing yourself, loving yourself for who you are, and not hating yourself for who you're not, a book about realizing your greatest hopes and dreams.www.blbooks.blogspot.com
Audiences can cheer for Moser’s interpretation of this beloved author who is depicted to be as heroic as the female protagonists she created.www..bloggernews.net
Moser, drawing on real life events in Austen’s life, diaries, and other sources, chronicles Austen’s life as she grows and matures not only in her writing but also in her life.www.reviews.armchairinterviews.com
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Twenty years old Jane Austen begins keeping a journal starting with falling in love with Tom Lefroy. Over the years, she has had good things and bad things occur, but always wrote an entry in her journal regardless. Thus when her dad decided to move to Bath, an outraged Jane grieves the loss of the family home even more than the unfortunate death of her sister's fiancé. Her mom¿s constant complaints about illness drive Jane crazy as she believes most are in her mother¿s head. Then there are the men she desires. Writing novels has been a welcome relief although she originally assumes she had no talent, but as she is into her thirties, she also basks in the success of her novels as she never expected fame to shine a light on her.----------------------- With Jane Austen in almost as much readers faces as JD Rowling is, fans of the great author will appreciate this interesting historical fictionalized memoir. Jane is a fascinating protagonist as she relates her frustrations with her mom, her seemingly unrequited attraction to men starting with Tom, and her deep religious convictions. Ms. Austen¿s actual words are used throughout with the humor that is so apparent in her six novels appearing in her letters interestingly though no quotations are used to delineate direct Austen quotes, readers will know with at least the longer passages as there is much word play involved. Fans who want to know more about Ms. Austen¿s life will appreciate this well written ¿autobiographical¿ fiction, although the journal fails to capture the essence of what made Jane write.------------- Harriet Klausner
Jane Austen of course is legend to us today. Although I have heard some historical discrepancies from one or two things in this novel of her life, I really see this as a depiction that is the most true to how I see Jane's life. Nancy Moser did a wonderful job bringing the light of Jane to a realistic picture for me and I could imagine every scene of her story. At first I was reading on a depressed note, thinking of the Jane movies I have seen recently just knowing that it will end with her death. At the end of the novel I was quite pleased with the way that Nancy arranged things. I believe this is the way that things should be. Jane should be missed surely, but not pitied. She would not want that I think. But I do believe she claps for joy each time someone else on our earth discovers the words that she has left to share with us all.
I loved this book! It's my very favorite of the year. I felt so immersed in Jane Austen's life and thoughts. I felt as though I really knew her by the time I finished this book. Author Nancy Moser used real letters from Jane Austen herself to get her facts--and the personality--right. She perfectly captured the time, the language, the attitudes and mores of the day. I so enjoyed finding out the real events that led to Jane's first publication. I was shocked that she had had so much trouble getting published. I just assumed it had been easy for her. Shouldn't it have been obvious to anyone that she was a genius? Apparently not. I was surprised that she went through years of waiting and doubting that she would ever be published. She wanted her works to be published, and I wanted it for her, too. I couldn't wait to find out how it would finally happen. This book is wonderful. I highly recommend it. My favorite book of the year.
I love all things Jane Austen. I love all the movie versions that have come out of her books. Right now it's very 'in' to be an Austen fan especially with the two recent movies that have come out about Jane Austen. I kept forgetting at times while reading that this was a fiction novel and not really Jane Austen's memoirs! The first person narrative is done extremely well that will make the reader think they have discovered the lost diaries of the author. I felt like I was literally dropped into the time period because the rich narrative made the story come alive. I liked how Jane would get the inspirations for her characters. She and her sister Cassandra were very much like Elizabeth and Jane Bennett from P&P while you could also seem resemblances from the people she would meet. Her reasons for never getting married are portrayed here as her reaction to societies' expectations on the role of women. I loved the authenticity with the way the book was written, right down to the 'olde English'. The only fault I found with the book is that you are dropped right into the middle of the story but are not given that much background info. There are a lot of characters mentioned as well, and it is easy to get quickly confused. Other than that, I found this book a joy to read. This book is highly recommended for historical fiction fans and those Austen fanatics who get enough of that 6 hour version of Pride and Prejudice.
Nancy Moser has truly captured the essence of Jane Austen in this charming bio-novel. She helps us to empathize with Jane's thoughts and reactions to the events of her life. We feel her need to fulfill her God-given talent which was to write and her frustration of having to be obedient to her families' wishes. We come to understand the constraints of being a woman author living in the 18th and early 19th century and grieve for the narrow opportunities for women at this time. Many of the themes of Jane Austen's books actually occured in the life of Jane Austen. Ms. Moser helps us to understand the need for women to marry for financial support and the desperation so many women must have felt to accept any proposal and raise a family. We also cheer Jane on because she insisted on marrying for 'love', but we also grieve at her losses. We are enchanted by her loyalty to her sister, Cassandra as well as a few chosen friends. We are charmed by the thought processes which Jane must have experienced to compile her characters and we read actual exerts from Jane's books. In a time of much decorum, we relish the human side of Jane with her doubts and feelings of guilt that she cannot contribute more to the family. Jane said,'I am but a spinster who dabbles with writing when life affords her the time, inclination, and inspiration.' We know that this description doesn't do her justice, and we root for her success. We are grateful to see her growth and self-confidence as her novels get published. Ms. Moser's careful research into Jane's life has given us a glimpse of what this special author's days must have been like. This would be a perfect discussion book for book clubs as the author even provides discussion questions in the back. I highly recommend 'Just Jane' as one of the best 'reads' I have had in a long time.