Happy book birthday to The Jane Austen Project! I know I don’t usually post reviews on Tuesday mornings, but today is a special occasion. This book is released TODAY, and luckily, I finished reading it just in time to put this review up. I was granted access to the e-ARC of this novel by Edelweiss a while back in exchange for an honest review, and I requested access becuase I was intrigued by the idea of time travel as a premise for historical fiction. I like watching science fiction/time travel shows like Doctor Who and whatnot (okay, really only DW), but I have never read a novel about time travelers.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads
England, 1815: Two travelers—Rachel Katzman and Liam Finucane—arrive in a field, disheveled and weighed down with hidden money. They are not what they seem, but colleagues from a technologically advanced future, posing as a doctor and his spinster sister. While Rachel and Liam aren’t the first team of time travelers, their mission is the most audacious yet: meet, befriend, and steal from Jane Austen.
Carefully selected and rigorously trained by The Royal Institute for Special Topics in Physics, disaster-relief doctor Rachel and actor-turned-scholar Liam have little in common except their extraordinary circumstances. Circumstances that call for Rachel to stifle her independent nature and let Liam take the lead as they infiltrate Austen’s circle via her favorite brother, Henry.
But diagnosing Jane’s fatal illness and obtaining an unpublished novel hinted at in her letters pose enough of a challenge without the convolutions of living a lie. While her friendship with Jane deepens and her relationship with Liam grows complicated, Rachel fights to reconcile her true self with the constrictions of 19th century society. As their portal to the future prepares to close, Rachel and Liam struggle with their directive to leave history as they found it…however heartbreaking that proves.
I started this novel on April 7, and the only reason I took over 3 weeks to finish it was because my Capstone project took up every waking moment of my time for about two pf those weeks. There were days this month were I couldn’t focus on reading at all because, even in my downtime, my mind was reeling with all the work I needed to do. I’m not saying this to complain, but to effective portray this point: If not for my school responsibilities, I would have finished this novel in 7 days tops. The day I finished, I had started at 70% complete in my e-ARC, but once I hit 80% I had to just sit down and finish it. I needed to know how it ended. Did Liam and Rachel make it back to their own time? How much would have changed? Would they complete the mission after all? I sat down and finished it. And I was not disappointed.
The Jane Austen Project was riveting and unique and I simply didn’t want to put it down. I highly recommend this for fans of historical fiction and sci-fi type of novels because this combination was so much better than I had expected.
Release Date: May 2, 2017
My Rating: 5 stars
I had a thought about making this a spoiler free review, but I have realized in my year and half of blogging that I just have too many thoughts to write reviews that are completely spoiler free.
**So, in other words, beware of spoilers below!**
I was not expecting this to be a sort of dystopian novel. Liam and Rachel are from the future, that we know, but we don’t know how far into our own future. There are several mentions of the “Die-off” and the revival of “Old Britain” throughout the course of the novel, but I think I would have liked a bit more backstory about where our star time travelers came from. There are some instances of backstory reveal as Liam and Rachel become closer and more comfortable with each other. For the most part, I felt disconnected to them as their own selves though. From the very first page, we are thrown into 1815 and only know our characters as they behave in 1800s-acting-mode
While it is definitely a science-fiction type of story, the focus is mainly on the historical fiction aspect of things. I have, admittedly, never read a Jane Austen novel. I wrote in my summer TBR post (up as of yesterday) that it is a goal of mine to read one over break this year. As far as I can tell, there was a lot of research that had to go into making this novel possible. My favorite part of reading historical fiction is when I feel as though I am learning something while reading an entertaining work of fiction. Of course I know that much of the story is made up, but it’s obvious that the research element has an influence over what the characters say and do. I can tell just by skimming through the Jane Austen Wikipedia page that the story of her life is very present in this novel, though I hope Kathleen Flynn went into deeper research than Wikipedia.
I was so invested in the characters that Liam and Rachel were conveying in the past that I sometimes forgot that they needed to go back to the future with a completed mission. They did too. Especially at the end, it was heartbreaking to know that they needed to let Jane die even though they had become such close friends with the famous writer. Then I was shocked when Rachel decided to try and save her and go against directives to leave history as untouched as possible.
Man, this was not the ending I was expecting at all. Kathleen really threw a twist in there with just how much Rachel and Liam’s lives were changed by their actions in the past. Just like Rachel, I was very confused as to how prolonging Jane Austen’s life would have made her own mother die faster or cause Liam to have been married sooner. Everything had changed so much and it was very jarring for both the characters and myself.
Part of me was kind of hoping they would end up stuck in 1816 to live their lives in the past. But the other part of me was thinking logically about how Liam would die of his ailments if they stayed, and just the overall lack of hygiene in that era that would have made life much harder than if they went back to the future/their present. Also, the fact that Liam was already married in this alternate future/present put a huge damper in his plans to break off his engagement and be in a relationship with Rachel instead. I was hoping against all hope that they would end up together, so I was very glad that they finally spoke to each other at the very end and resolved to work things out in order to be together. Not gonna lie, I kind of want a sequel where we get to find out what happens with Liam and Sabina and whether Liam and Rachel stay on at the institute or decide to live normal lives while keeping their memories… I’m rambling, but you’ll know what I mean if you have read this far because that means you’ve also read the book.
So I think I’ve gone on long enough about this book, I genuinely enjoyed reading it and I hope you did too! Let me know what you thought in the comments.