I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

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This is a very readable “journal” which covers the period from February to April 1791 as written by Jane Austen’s cousin, Jane Cooper. Though the characters described are real, the journal is fictitious, but the idea is very successful and immediately the reader is drawn into the world of Regency life. Most of the events revolve around family life in the Austen household: amateur dramatics; visits to and from relatives and neighbours; society balls; news from the Austen brothers; walks to the village, and, as the main characters are young girls, romance and flirtation. There are some more serious events, such as the life-threatening fever epidemic with which the book begins and an attack by highwaymen, which serve to remind us that everyday life in those days was always tinged with danger.

The journal is illustrated with delightful drawings by Susan Hellard, supposedly by Jane Cooper herself. Some liberties with the truth have been taken, such as changing the main character’s name from Jane to Jenny, making her nearer in age to Jane Austen and altering the year in which they were both at school in Southampton. This is a very entertaining and engaging book by Cora Harrison and should be greatly enjoyed by girls of 12 and above.

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