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Jane Austen Lives Again

I’m absolutely thrilled with the fabulous reviews I’m getting for Jane Austen Lives Again – I’d like to thank Serena Agusto-Cox from Savvy, Verse and Wit, and Katie Patchell writing for Austenprose, for taking the time to review my book. Thank you also to Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose for selecting Jane Austen Lives Again for Best Austenesque Paranormal/Fantasy Novel 2015

From the desk of Serena Augusto-Cox

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, included rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.

“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”

Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.

Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  EmmaSense & SensibilityPride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

From the desk of Katie Patchell:

What would Jane Austen say and do if she lived in the 1920s instead of the late 1700s/early 1800s? Would she wear a drop-waist dress that showed her ankles and bob her auburn hair? Would she dance the Charleston or listen to Jazz music? How would she react to being called ‘baby doll’? And would being handed into the front seat of a car by a young, eligible man just as romantic as being handed into a Regency carriage? These fascinating questions and more are imaginatively answered in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, where readers—and Jane Austen herself—are transported to the chaotic, electrifying Jazz Age.

1817: After days of sickness, Jane Austen closes her eyes on this world for the last time. Or so she thinks. When she opens them again—to her, only a few moments later—her doctor informs her that he found the secret to immortal life, and the year is…

1925: Post re-birth and after months reading modern newspapers, watching Hollywood films, and listening to Jazz music, Jane convinces Dr. Lyford that it’s time she takes her first steps to becoming an independent woman of the 20th century. A post as a governess for the five young daughters of Lord and Lady Milton seems just the thing.

I’ve never felt better. I feel as if I am about to start a new adventure, even if the thought of five little girls is a disquieting one. More than anything, I will have the time to write all the novels I thought were to be denied to me, and I will endure anything to that end.” (Chapter 1, Location 104)

On her arrival at the beautiful but crumbling Manberley Castle, Jane discovers that the adventure that awaits her is of an entirely different sort. Rather than having to take care of five young children, she’s been given the time-consuming and hectic job of being a governess to five young adult women, some a few years older than her (seemingly) 21 year old self!

But Jane has always loved a challenge, whatever the century. She soon gets swept up in the daily life of a quirky bohemian family and the romantic entanglements of five heroines—not to mention the attentions of William Milton, their irrepressibly charming, teasing, and oh-so-frustrating elder brother. Can Jane give her not-so-young charges the happy endings they deserve, even if they can’t see it themselves? Will she ever be able to find the time to pick up her pen (or typewriter) to write again? And in the midst of the Milton chaos and “modern” 1920s world, will she find love and happiness in her second chance at life?

Two major things were done in Jane Austen Lives Again that made it marvelous: Jane as the novel’s protagonist, and character similarities with Austen’s originals. Because of her supernatural awakening a century after Jane’s supposed death, she is given the chance to be the heroine of her own story. While I’ve loved other books starring Jane Austen that are set in her own time (such as Carolyn V. Murray’s beautiful 2015 debut, Jane by the Sea), getting the chance to see Jane in a different time period was a rare treat—especially in 1920s Devon, England. Transplanting her—the inimitable, fearless, sparkling Jane Austen we all know and love—to a different setting was a genius move. Odiwe skillfully kept Jane’s personality (and history through moments of back story) but enabled her to grow as a heroine.

At the same time, Jane Austen Lives Again is also a reimagining of most of the main love stories in Jane Austen’s novels. The five Milton women were reimaginings of Anne Elliot, Marianne Dashwood, Emma Woodhouse, Elizabeth Bennet, and Jane Bennet. While these main characters followed their original plotlines closely, sometimes they (and the men I thought they’d end up with) varied from their original characters or merged with others (such as the “Frank Churchill” character combining with “Willoughby”). This was handled with ease on Odiwe’s part, and kept me guessing—and highlighting my Kindle copy because of new character insights—until the final pages.

In its humor, family shenanigans, and determined heroine, Jane Austen Lives Again is reminiscent of Cold Comfort Farm, a hilarious, dazzling classic by Stella Gibbons. Yet at the same time, it stays true to Jane Austen and her novels in spirit—and still more, manages to stand apart from these as a unique novel of love, family, and laughter.

With a remarkable setting and gorgeous descriptions, memorable characters and a message of happy endings and new beginnings, Jane Austen Lives Again is a perfect read for Christmas and New Year’s.

5 out of 5 Stars


 

 

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