In a near dystopian future, time travel has become possible. Eva Farmer, philanthropist and funder of the time travel, has a deep interest in finding a finished version of Jane Austen’s book The Watsons and also Jane Austen’s lost letters. In this futurist world, Austen is even more of an obsession than now. A new Jane Austen letter had been discovered in an old book that lead the world to believe that a copy of a finished The Watsons existed, but had been destroyed at some point in the past because Jane believed it revealed too much about her.
“And perhaps it was no accident that it was her friend Anne Sharpe, long-suffering former governess for Edward Knights’ children to whom she confided she had published ‘The Watsons’ but would never try to publish it. ‘It turned out, my dear Anne, to have shown far too much of my heart,’ she explains in the Croydon Ivanhoe letter.
‘Poverty is a great evil; but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest,’ earnest Emma Watson says in ‘The Watsons,’ adding: ‘I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I do not like.’
To which one of her sisters replies: ‘I would rather do anything than be teacher at a school.’”
I am officially intrigued with this version of The Watsons. Dr. Rachel Katzman is selected as one of the participants to travel back in time with Liam Finucane to 1815. Together they will pose as brother and sister William and Mary Ravenswood from Jamaica looking for investments with Jane Austen’s brother Henry. Things do not go quite as planned as when they first arrive in the dead of night, they are not able to get a room at a local inn because of the strangeness of their sudden appearance. The money they hide on their persons is a large fortune at the time and they are soon able to set themselves up with style in London and arrange a meeting with Henry Austen.
As they infiltrate the lives of the Austens, Rachel works to find the hidden novel, the letters, and well as what mysterious ailment Jane Austen has that will lead to her untimely death. Rachel and Liam discover that trying to keep their pose is treacherous. Will they be able to complete their mission and make it back to the future alive?
I LOVED The Jane Austen Project. It combined two of my favorite elements – time travel and Jane Austen. Author Katherine Flynn was able to perfectly capture the historic elements of 1815 and what it would be like for a modern person to be in that situation. Also as a lover of all things Jane Austen, she captured Austen’ history perfectly and I really like the personality that Jane Austen had in this novel. I loved having our two heroes get to know Austen on a personal level and be a part of her life.
I also loved the return to the future. Without ruining things, I love that any changes to the past can have devastating effects to the future. I also loved the side joke that any one sent in the past to help the Brontes would come back with a mysterious strain of TB or not at all. I found it distressing that this version of the future had no problems with continuously altering the past.
The only part I didn’t like was actually like in this novel was the romance between Rachel and Liam. Maybe it was because they were posing as brother and sister, but it seemed “icky” to me. I also loved that Rachel had an engagement in the past with Henry Austen – I actually wanted that to develop into a romance and possible future!
“How could anyone expect to travel to the past and not change it?
“’You’re thinking about this the wrong way,’ Eva Farmer said. ‘The past is a collective fiction like anything else. Like fiat money, for example. It exists because we agree it does. It has no objective reality.’”
Overall, The Jane Austen project is an enjoyable immersive experience in the world of 1815 England. I highly recommend it to fans of Jane Austen, historical fiction, time travel, or the regency period.
E-Book Source: Harper Perennial – Thanks!