Publication Date: April 23, 2013
A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard is an imagined story of Jane Austen’s life in which she longs for companionship and love. Will she find what she’s looking for at a ball in honor of her sister and herself hosted by their brother at Godmersham Park?
I first read this book early in the year and was preparing to review when Southard notified me that it had been removed from the market. I believe he was looking for a new publisher and had done some editing in the novel itself. Having read both versions now, I honestly can’t pinpoint what has changed. It was a wonderful and fun novel then and remains a wonderful and fun novel that was surprisingly refreshing even on a second read. Southard asked me at the time, what I thought of the novel and I told him that I thought it was elegantly written and interesting … funny, poignant and elegantly written. Very Jane Austen. That opinion has not changed.
Southard warns at the start of A Jane Austen Daydream that “This book is a work of fiction, only marginally influenced by the facts.” He imagines the author as living her work. The rich tones in A Jane Austen Daydream and playful meddling call to mind the madcap character, Emma. Jane’s witty rejoinders remind the reader of Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Jane also experiences an anxiety of anticipation reminiscent of Lizzie before her Mr. Darcy came along. Jane is in love with love and she wants love. While not much is known of the thoughts and motivations of the real Jane Austen, what Southard surmises from her work is a very credible representation of what she might have been and written in a style flawlessly similar.
Southard doesn’t rely on the great author to develop and define his characters. He instead, puts the legwork in himself by showing us the characters in action and through the eyes of their community. There is a commonality in the family that flows in a logical fashion. Jane and Cassandra are who they are as a result of their upbringing, which speaks volumes for their parents. Mr. Austen is stern, as would be appropriate for rector of the time, but he is caring, kind-hearted and generally wants the best for his children even when they’re not looking out for the best for themselves. Mrs. Austen lauds Cassandra for how caring she is, but she mothers the community and knows what is going on in the homes of everyone she meets because they let her in and want her there. I know a lot of readers out there will scoff seeing that the author is male that he couldn’t convey the finer emotions, but I can’t help but imagine that Southard’s representation of what her life might have been would make even Jane Austen proud.
One of my favorite scenes in the novel comes early when a fortune teller marvels that Austen’s lifeline never ends. “It means … that you will never die” (Kindle location 353). This tongue in cheek nod from Southard to his reader shows an acceptance of a great truth. A writer’s work lives on. Austen may have died in 1817, but her work has always been in print and with fans like Southard preserving her memory, she always will be.
A Jane Austen Daydream is a wonderfully fun novel that is a must-read for fans of Jane Austen. If you’re not a fan, give this book a shot and I’m willing to bet you will come away a convert. It is not my intent to sound patronizing, but it just goes to show that you shouldn’t judge a book by an author picture. Seeing young Mr. Southard, his appearance conveys a spirit of Elvis Cole meets Jane Austen. I’d never have thought that this level of classic elegance and grace could have come from the guy pictured (sorry, Southard, I am being honest for the greater good — people meeting their perfect reads). I also say this because I know there are those of you out there who will not read male authors, but please trust, this is the author that will change your outlook. Cleverly written and well plotted, A Jane Austen Daydream should make any summer reading list. Pick it up and then let me know what you think.
Read an excerpt and buy A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard on