By the second sentence of Laurie Viera Rigler’s Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, I was hooked. Rigler’s main character is Courtney Stone, a twenty-first century, working, independent, thirty-year-old woman, who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Courtney’s mind is somehow transported into the body of a woman named Jane Mansfield. Jane lives in the nineteenth century, in a year when only Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice have been published. These two novels become Courtney’s only connection to her former life as she is forced to live Jane’s life.
Rigler’s writing was inviting, a smooth combination of contemporary writing style and “Regency” language. One of the first things that struck me and was maintained throughout the novel, is the realistic portrayal of life in the 19th century. The first problem Courtney is faced with is having to pee, which, as far as I can remember, is never addressed in any book or film about that time. There’s the lack of hygiene (Courtney has to insist on bathing twice a week), farting in church and a woman’s “monthly courses” which means she is “indisposed” until it is over. Courtney even comments on how the era is romanticized. She is frustrated by how little freedom women have and how a woman of thirty is practically over the hill. I suppose I would be too if I found myself in that era. Courtney’s observances only add to the plot of the story.
Just like in an Austen novel, nothing is what it seems in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. There are misunderstandings. Hidden meanings. There are circumstances that Courtney laughs at, though if it were Lizzy Bennet, she might be disgusted. There are terrible people who pretend to be friends. There are marriages of convenience, while there is also the search for love. Laurie Viera Rigler’s first novel has left me happy; wanting to know more, yet satisfied with the ending.