Review by A Baja Janeite
Henry was dying. Jane Austen hovers in anguish over her favorite brother- but she is also extremely annoyed with him. Henry has revealed that Jane is the anonymous author of three popular novels to the royal family physician. Oh, what a Henry! Here Jane Austen-Her Golden Years by Muriel Keller Evans begins. Covering the last two years of Jane’s life, this historical fiction promises to highlight her family and faith. It does.
There were several things that I liked about this book. Evans alternates each chapter of fiction with a letter from “Jane” to a family member. I tried to check the authenticity of the events in each narrated chapter as well as the content of the letters. They all seemed to be based on history–except for Jane’s interactions with contemporary William Wilberforce.
Although I could not find any records of an acquaintance with Wilberforce, it was a clever way to approach the much pondered question, “What about Jane and the Evangelicals?” William Wilberforce, his wife Barbara Spooner, Cousin Edward Cooper and Henry Austen defend their stance in a dignified manner in Chapter 7. (Wouldn’t that be an intense scene in a movie?)
There were some concerns that I had about the book. Like so many self-published books, there are punctuation errors. The dialogue and letters were filled with many exclamation points, phrases like “our heroine,” or “our favorite novelist,” and much animated dialogue. The writing style seems more appropriate for a younger reader than an adult one.
The back cover states, “Regular readers of Austen’s work will delight in deciphering fact from fiction, and new readers may be encouraged to read all her novels and letters.” It did have that effect on me- I spent hours examining Jane’s on-line letters and double checking historic events in her life. If that were a main purpose of this book, it was a success.