The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: Volume III
As a lifelong fan of Jane Austen’s books, I regretted missing out on reading volumes 1 and 2 of the trilogy before starting this, but I needn’t have worried; the story had enough expertly inserted back-story to ensure that the read captivated. In this book, Hemingway continues his exploration of Austen’s activities from 1807 to 1809, a time when there was little documentation on the writer’s life. Then she died too young, aged 41.
Jane is married to Ashton, exhausted from the demands of baby George and unresponsive to Ashton’s overtures to renew marital intimacy. Appreciating his wife’s cleverness, analytical ability, and way with people, he doesn’t insist on his ‘rights,’ though this echoes throughout the story.
A series of personal tragedies threatens their marriage and has them struggling: the illness of their son, betrayal at the hands of former friends, business problems and family upsets. In an effort to save their relationship Jane travels with Ashton to Spain, where the Napoleonic Wars are raging. While witnessing the brutality and corruption of armed conflict, she displays unexpected qualities of leadership. Her resilience and compassion enable her to regard the world with a sharper awareness.
In the language of the times, Hemingway delves into the historical, trade, and domestic events of the complex Regency era as well as the thoughts and conclusions of this powerful 19th-century writer, eloquently channelling the wit and sensibility of Jane Austen’s life.
My reservation about this enchanting read is the amount of letter writing used to convey information, particularly Jane writing to her sister Cassandra from Spain. Showing works better for me in fiction.