The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, Vols. 1 and 2

Written by Collins Hemingway
Review by Jane Hill

At the age of 26, Jane meets Ashton Dennis at a ball in Bath. The following day Jane walks with her sister, Cassandra, through Sydney Gardens, where Ashton is selling tickets for a ride in a hot air balloon. She climbs into the basket and is blown by the wind for miles into the countryside. The friendship between the two continues, and eventually they marry.

In this way the author enables himself to explore and dramatise a possible life for Austen in a more complex social milieu than Austen’s oeuvre presents. The subject of slavery, for example, is addressed, and Jane and Ashton meet and talk with William Wilberforce on social occasions. Ashton’s business enterprises are affected by the Industrial Revolution, and again this allows Austen’s sharp intellect to engage with conflicts between science and religion.

Most importantly, Ashton inherits the largest manor house in Hampshire and longs for an heir to inherit the estate. This imagining of Jane Austen therefore sees her as a young mother, and the author is excited to depict the way that Austen might have responded to motherhood, and to the deepening of love after marriage.

Though alternative history, the historical accuracy of the Regency period makes these books a delight to read, and I look forward to Volume 3.