It’s been a busy few weeks. With the start of the school year and the writing I’ve been doing, I’ve had very little time to read for my own pleasure. But the arrival of fall weather (at least here in New Hampshire) had me looking for something to read while cuddled up under blankets, so I reached for Kathleen A. Flynn’s The Jane Austen Project and it turned out to be the perfect fall read.
The book follows a team of researchers traveling back through time to 1815 to find a lost Jane Austen manuscript, The Watsons.
That sounds like it ought to be a romp, right? A fun caper? After all, fish-out-of-water stories are usually about fun, and it’s pretty easy to derive humor from modern characters forced to grapple with the fact that their modernity isn’t always an asset in a historical context. Plus, the prospect of characters sidling up to real life historical literary figures–that sounds like Midnight in Paris, right? I’ll be honest, I was expecting something that could be described as “fun” and maybe “light-hearted”
But the odd thing about this book is that it isn’t a romp. Instead, it’s surprisingly serious for a time travel novel. Sure, there’s all the concern about affecting the past, but the specter of danger and death hangs over the entire thing. 1815 wasn’t the high point of Jane Austen’s life (as you can see from a quick glance at her Wikipedia page), but beyond that The Jane Austen Project captures the seriousness of Austen’s work. They might all seem like sweet, lighthearted romances where everybody winds up married at the end, but as everyone who loves her work knows, there are some serious stakes involved. Finding a husband in the early part of the 19th century wasn’t just a matter of settling down to a happy life–for many families it was the difference between life and death upon the death of a husband or father.
And it’s the darkness to The Jane Austen Project that makes it such a great fall read. Breezy romps are for summer reads, books that can be quickly devoured on a beach or at the park. But when fall brings the cooler weathers and you’re thinking about hot apple cider and warm socks, you want something that brings a bit of that chill to make the warmth under the blanket just a little more welcome.
If you’re a Kindle user, it’s currently available for $1.99.