Author: Cora Harrison
Age group:14-18 (or older)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Book number two of six has been read. I decided to read I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison next, partially to get in the spirit for the Jane Austen Yule Ball Saturday next. (That’s Austen speak for the Saturday after this one.)
I have long loved Jane Austen’s works and the movie adaptations. What girl doesn’t love an old fashioned romance? Obviously Cora Harrison is a fan herself; it was the inspiration for writing this book.
Not much is known about Jane Austen’s teenage years, only clippings of her writings from that time and details of a few key events. One such event was an illness she suffered while at boarding school in Southampton. Her courageous cousin Jane Cooper (changed to Jenny in the book for clarity’s sake) went against the orders of the headmaster to tell Mrs. Austen of Jane’s illness. Without the intervention of her mother, it is believed, Jane could have died from this illness.
In the book Jenny is not just disobeying orders but goes out past midnight to deliver the letter to the post. In her adventures on the street she meets a dashing young captain by the name of Thomas Williams. He escorts her to the post and back, keeping her safe from the riffraff that roam the streets that time of night.
For the rest of the book a horrible fear plagues Jenny, if her midnight adventure were to be discovered her reputation would be ruined. Yet even with this fear she enjoys many of the exciting opportunities chronicled in Austen’s books.
Jenny and Jane share a room and gossip over their pillows. They go to balls, choose new dresses and wonder which men will take an interest in them. Many of the people and events in this book are true to actual history, including Captain Williams, who comes back later in the book.
While the book was sometimes a little slow moving I found it quite enjoyable. It added a modern flair to Austen’s style of writing. I personally think all of Jane Austen’s books take a bit of time to get to the exciting things so in that regard Cora Harrison had it spot on.
This book would make a great introduction for teen girls into the world of Jane Austen. It explains some of the customs and attitudes of the time which would make understanding Jane Austen easier. I would still recommend it to older teens though, mostly because younger teens might not understand the obsession with marriage that was so ever present at that time. Mature young teenagers may also be able to handle it.
Cora Harrison has produced a work about real people in a slightly fictional situation, written in a way that Jane Austen could be proud of. Austenites and regular folks alike can enjoy this book. I know I did.