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Just Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen’s Life

By Nancy Moser, Bethany House, 2007, ISBN: 0-7642-0356-8

As JASNA National member Nancy Moser researched Just Jane, she found . . . a friend. She met a fellow fiction author who was “witty, wise, discerning, creative, and loyal” as well as “stubborn, judgmental, insecure, and needy.” A Jane Austen who is “a lot like us.”

Just Jane is fictional biography. Moser worked hard to present Jane accurately, though warning readers she used creative guesswork to flesh out, explain, and add immediacy to the action. Moser, daringly, writes in the first person. In its defense, the first-person present-tense approach confronted me with Jane’s emotions during critical events in her life—being dispossessed of all that was “home” in Steventon; weathering painful courtships, living with guilt and disregard as an unmarried dependent, enduring years of writer’s block and a manuscript languishing in a publisher’s storeroom.

I longed for some indication of direct quotes within the text. This distraction somewhat abated as I joined Jane in her “lost years” of exile in Bath and her final homegoing to Chawton: “I opened the trunk and gazed upon the work of my life; pages and pages of words carefully chosen, drawing images of people who were as real to me as flesh and blood, who lived lives that had been put on hold while I muddled through my own struggles and disappointments.” Though I have enjoyed many more-informative “straight biographies” of Jane Austen, I have never before shared Jane’s delight in her hard-won triumphs. It’s as if Nancy Moser’s friend, Jane Austen, were now mine as well.

--Lori Davis, Letter From Chicago, Winter 2008