The Jane Austen Project
Part science fiction, part fan fiction, this enjoyable adventure takes a common fantasy—traveling into the past to meet one’s favorite author—and treats it quite earnestly, sending a doctor, Rachel Katzman, and an actor, Liam Finucane, from the near future through a wormhole to Regency England, to befriend Jane Austen in the hopes of rescuing the lost manuscript of The Watsons from destruction. Flynn has great fun with Rachel and Liam’s discomfort adjusting to inconvenient daily 19th-century challenges, from restrictive clothing to restrictive social rules to typhoid, and her ear for dialogue is terrific, switching easily between Rachel’s personal Brooklynese and the Regency diction she and Liam must quickly master. Once the complicated exposition is out of the way, the reader can relax and enjoy watching two attractive, devoted Austen fans engage in the ultimate cosplay.
The more serious moral implications of time-travel creep up on the characters—and the reader—through deft character development and believable incidents. The end of the novel is especially engaging, as the consequences of dabbling in the past snowball in unexpected and satisfying ways. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that one novel couldn’t possibly succeed as Austen pastiche, science fiction, romance, and satire all at once, but Flynn has achieved this feat, and has written an excessively diverting tale.