A Jane Austen Daydream
The incidents of Jane Austen’s life are well known to her fans, and we are legion. Author Southard has taken the facts about the great author and woven them into a credible, touching, and also entertaining portrait of a life. This is a novel more than a fictionalized biography, but in most particulars Southard remains true to Jane’s early 19th-century world, showing a highly intelligent young woman limited by a circumscribed life. She faces the same dilemma as her characters of whether and whom to marry, and the consequences of those decisions. Jane’s wit, strength, and devotion to family and her art carry her through such trials as the proposal, and temporary acceptance, of the hand of Mr. Bigg-Withers. This episode is one of the highlights of the novel, after which Jane’s wastrel brother Henry comments, “I have to say…that, Jane, you are no longer fun at parties. You are far too unpredictable.”
Novels are also little fun if predictable and in creating a story of Jane’s life, where the facts and incidents are already known, Scott Southard has managed to produce both an unexpected and unconventional story. A Jane Austen Daydream captures the warmth, laughter, folly, wisdom, and grief that must have been present in Jane’s family life and surroundings for her to have produced her novels. And in Southard’s novel dear Jane is given a much kinder end.