Is there always another chance at happiness? Are we bound to our past, or do “we all have the power to create heaven on earth, right here, right now?” Important questions heroine Jane Mansfield must come to acknowledge and understand in Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler’s parallel story to her best selling novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.
This time around, it is Jane Mansfield, a gentleman’s daughter, from 1813 who is transported into the body of twenty-first century Los Angelean Courtney Stone. Jane awakens with a headache, but it will take more than aromatic vinegar to solve her problems. Where is she? Her surroundings are wholly unfamiliar to the usual comforts of her parent’s palatial Manor house in Somerset. Is she dreaming? She remembers a tumble off her horse Belle, but nothing after that point. She looks in the mirror and the face reflected back is not her own. How can this be? A young man named Wes arrives who calls her Courtney. Is he a servant? Who is Courtney? Ladies arrive for a visit concerned by her odd behavior. Why is she acting like a character in a Jane Austen novel?
Jane is indeed a stranger in a strange land. As her friends, or Courtney’s friends Paula, Anna and Wes, help her navigate through the technology of cell phones, CD players, washing machines and other trappings of our modern life it becomes less taxing. She relishes her privacy and independence to do as she chooses, indulging in reading the four new (to her) novels by Jane Austen that she discovers on Courtney’s bookshelf – one passion/addiction that she shares in common with her over the centuries. Between Jane Austen’s keen insights and the fortune teller called “the lady”, she might be able to make sense of this nonsensical world she has been thrown into. Is this the same fortune teller she met in Bath in her own life? She had warned her not to ride her horse. Or did she? Are her memories and Courtney’s one in the same? The lady tells her she has work to do to put Courtney’s life in order. Jane only wants to return to her former life and Charles Edgeworth, the estranged beau she left behind.
Seeing our modern world from Jane’s nineteenth century eyes was quite revealing. I do not think that I will ever look at a television screen again without remembering her first reaction to the glass box with tiny people inside talking and dancing like characters from Pride and Prejudice! These quirky insights are what Rigler excels at, and her Regency era research and knowledge of Jane Austen plays out beautifully. We truly understand Jane’s reactions and sympathize with her frustrations. Not only is Rude Awakenings a comedy of lifestyle comparisons across the centuries, it supplies a very interesting look at modern courtship and romance with a bit of genteel feminisms thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, what principals and standards that Jane learned in the nineteenth century, will straighten out Courtney’s mixed up twenty-first century life at home, work and in her budding romance with Wes.
Rude Awakenings is a cheeky comedy with a message. Like Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, it helps us to look at mistakes in our past, and reminds us that “time is fleeting, and few of us are fortunate enough to notice that there is always another chance at happiness.” I enjoyed the humor, fondly remembering why I became a Jane Austen Addict in the first place.
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler
Dutton (Penguin Group USA) 2009
Hardcover (293) pages