When I think about Jane Austen, admittedly, my first thought is of Colin Firth in the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice jumping into that darn lake in his white, blousy shirt and looking fine. I don’t know what it says about me as a reader, but I do know that Kathleen A. Flynn’s The Jane Austen Project was a deeply satisfying read that was, in places, evocative of that glorious wet-shirt version of Colin Firth. Equal parts thriller, historical fiction and romance, there is a lot to admire about this book.
I’m a sucker for a good time travel narrative, and I feel like Flynn’s story had it all. Not unlike Jack Finney’s Time and Again, Rebecca and Liam have a somewhat seamless entry into Jane Austen’s 1815, where they are supposed to meet and befriend Jane Austen in order to diagnose the disease that will purportedly kill her and steal an unwritten manuscript, “The Watsons.” However, their so-called seamless plan quickly begins to go awry when Rebecca meddles too much in the course of history…
Time Travel, at its Best
What I loved about Flynn’s version time travel was that it was not overly complicated. We learn early on that Liam and Rebecca come from a future where time travel exists, but the only technical jargon that Flynn uses was the “access point” to the portal and the “spectronanometer,” which helps them find their portal. I liked this, because it didn’t bog down the narrative and kept the story feeling accessible.
Even so, Rebecca’s flashbacks to The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics were fascinating. I loved reading about their preparation for living in 1815 and the theoretical possibility of changing the future world that Rebecca comes from by intervening too much in 1815. While this is a convention often used in time travel narratives, I felt that Flynn used it well.
See Jane Live
As a bit of a Jane Austen fangirl, I loved Flynn’s characterization of Jane Austen. Paired with the specific and (I think) historically accurate details of Jane Austen’s life and her time period, it made for a lovely reading experience. While I have previously enjoyed Jane Austen’s books, I hadn’t learned much about the author behind the works. (I had no idea that Jane Austen died at 41 or that she really did write “The Watsons” and never published it). At the end of The Jane Austen Project, I felt like I had befriended Jane Austen and it was evident that as a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America Kathleen A. Flynn must have done a lot of research for The Jane Austen Project.
With a healthy dose of historical details, a bit of spying and romance thrown in the mix, The Jane Austen Project is a great, quick read that any time-travel buff or Jane Austen fan should pick up!