BT REVIEW: Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James

Berkley | E-ARC via Net Galley
Publication Date: August 5th, 2014
Adult Fiction | Historical
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

For someone who practically devoured every single Jane Austen novels in record time, I’ve never really been interested in reading her biography. My knowledge of her background is pretty much limited to her choice to be a single woman until she died. I did, however, see Becoming Jane; a movie about Jane Austen’s supposed love affair with the consummate bad boy, Tom Lefroy. I’ve always considered her to be a feminist way ahead of the times. And this is based on her characterization of Elizabeth Bennet. I also thought that if anyone would know what she wants in a man, Ms. Austen would be the type of person who would not shy away from voicing her desires.

Syrie James’ book – which, coincidentally is based on true events – tells the story of a pubescent Jane who fell in love with one Edward Taylor. But when you’re an intellect and quite set in your ways (like Jane), you’ll begin to question the authenticity of your feelings. And in so doing, you’ll then try to distract yourself by playing the matchmaking Cupid to those around you. I’d say hilarity ensues, but as in the case of another Austen character, Emma, you would be left feeling a bit annoyed; though generally amused.

As you dive into this story, you will notice several parallels to her novels. Art imitating life; imitating art. It’s not that hard to follow. Some events sound eerily familiar, especially to those who’ve read her novels. But if there’s one thing that made me feel like standing up in a huff of objection, it’s the way Jane seemed to be easily taken in by the splendour of the riches. She also complained (a bit too much for my taste),  of not being able to join in the festivities – balls, if I may – simply because she wasn’t “out” in the society yet. However, I soon realize that I’m reading about Jane herself and not Elizabeth Bennet; that I’ve entrapped myself in a confusion of my own doing.

This Jane Austen is fearless, fierce and adventurous. Tomboy-like, almost, but only when a challenge is put upon her. This Jane Austen is also boy-crazy! But only for one particular boy; this Jane Austen speaks her mind, to the point that she’s sometimes offensive. Her frankness, though admirable for the era, needed some finesse. Blame it on the innocence of her youth, or the building block of a strong-headed (okay, stubborn) personality, but her candour sometimes made me twitch.

It is so nice to see this Jane Austen, though. She’s so young, and yet a very determined woman already. She doesn’t back away from anything (see fierce). Edward Taylor is no Mr. Darcy – in such a way that he wasn’t cantankerous when he first met Jane. Edward is actually, the opposite of Darcy. He returns her affection. If there’s one thing you could take from this book review, it’s to try and separate Austen’s characters from Austen’s real-life relations. Otherwise, you might find yourself a bit out of sorts.

Despite the initial pitfalls, Syrie James showed us exactly why she’s the resident expert on everything Jane Austen. This woman lives and breathes lost journals and publications relating to Austen. It is no wonder that she continues to make an almost perfect recount in every single Austenesque novels. If you’re a fan, you must check out all the books that she’s written so far.

Thank you Syrie and Nita of Berkley for letting me be a part of the tour.

  • I’ve read one biography about Jane Austen before, and this sounds like a unique story! This fictional Jane Austen seems awesome and I’m curious about the parallels to her novels. Amazing review 🙂

  • I think I’d have to consciously separate Jane from her characters as well! I’ve only not read Emma (though I’m very familiar with the story) and Mansfield Park, but I love the rest. 🙂 I’ve not read a fictional Jane Austen-based book, but this sounds fun. Great review Joy!

  • I saw Becoming Jane and loved it! I swoon in every James McAvoy movie, LOL. This book sounds really good for Jane Austen fans! I’ve only read one of her books but I really want to read all of them eventually.

  • This book sounds like it offered some great insight into Jane Austen and it would have been really interesting if you’re a fan of her books, especially as it seems to mirror her novels.

  • Oh I think I’ll REALLY like this one. I didn’t know Jane’s life was actually a bit interesting lol. I thought she only wrote books like every day and that she was a bit of a recluse. But she seems great in fact. I’ll look forward to reading this and see Edward. ^^

  • Wow, I definitely want to check this out and read about Austen, rather than her characters. It would be hard to separate them from her though, since you say there are lots of similarities. But this sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing Joy 🙂

  • I AM a fan, so I might check this out! Thanks for the review!

  • Christy

    It’s been so long since I read anything by Austen, so I don’t know if I would even see the parallels at this point. But this sounds fascinating.

  • Faye M.

    I’ve yet to read a single Jane Austen book O.O I know, I know, silly and naive me! I really should read more classics though… I think the only one I’ve read was Don Quixote in full length, and only because it was required in school. It’s nice to have a book finally talking about this author’s life 🙂 She has so many fans around the world, old and young, and to finally have a layman account of what she went through must be making them ecstatic!

    Faye at The Social Potato

  • Pingback: Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party & Blog Tour with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog()

  • Like you, despite having read and enjoyed every one of Austen’s work I’m not familiar with her life story with the exception of Being Jane, the film, and both Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy are tragically fantastic in that. I’ll have to remember this and keep it in mind for when I’m in an Austen mood but instead of gravitating towards a re-read, I’ll go to this instead. Lovely review!

  • This one sounds really interesting! Glad you enjoyed it!

    Happy Reading
    Patrick @ The Bookshelves

  • Wonderful review! I know this is one that I will just have to read.

  • Heh. I haven’t read Jane Austen at all 😀 And I’m not sure I ever will :p Just not my type of books : But that might change someday. <3 Maybe. Anyway. Amazing review Joy 🙂 I'm glad you loved this book. It do seem interesting 🙂 I don't like books that make me annoyed.. but I'm glad you still enjoyed the main girl 🙂 Thank you for sharing. <3

  • Like Nicole, I haven’t read Austen, but glad to hear it was a new perspective

  • Very interesting! I am actually ashamed to say that I have never read a Jane Austen book. I just signed up for a tour of Finding Mr.Darcy: High School Edition, though, and I did it with the plan that I would first read the real book and rid myself of some of my ignorance! 🙂

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  • Can’t wait to read this book. Great review.