My Jane Austen Summer by Cindy Jones
Amidst several personal crises, Lily Berry leaps at the chance to leave her life and live one of an idyllic Regency girl from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park during an annual British lit fest.
This element alone grabbed my attention from the start as I became enamored with Lily's quest to outrun her problems. Her journey into England and literature becomes one of self-discovery and change as she deals with the loss of her mother and many other significant life alterations. There's even a "Thornbirds-esque" plot twist that makes her character even more likeable!
I found myself rooting for her success from the start--all along wishing that her theory of escaping from life into a book were really that easy. It's amazing that this is Cindy Jones' first foray into novels as I don't find many authors who capture my attention from page 1 with their freshman attempt. My only "criticism" is that I wish the book would have had the same blatant "happy ending" that you know is coming at the end of an Austen book.
This, however, is perhaps Jones' moral to Lily's story: life is not literature. Yet, there is still that green light of hope shining away at the end of Lily's dock.
Rated of 5
by Darlene C. (Woodstock, il)
"My Cindy Jones"
Although I was somewhat worried I would be lost in this book as I have not read Mansfield Park, I was delighted to find that it didn’t matter. The synopsis of Mansfield Park at the beginning told me what I needed to know – I’m sure those who have read that book will find even more depth to this novel. The plot follows a young woman, Lily, whose life is a mess. She has become so immersed in Jane Austen’s writings and Jane Austen, the person, that she seems to be living more in fantasy than reality – not a good way to live one’s life. “My Jane Austen” (as Lily refers to her) is always in her peripheral vision, guiding and commenting on Lily’s life. But this is not some supernatural story – it is only Lily’s way of coping. When things hit bottom in her real life in Texas, she escapes ( so she believes) into the world of Newton Priors, an English manor setting filled with literary types and actors who re-create Jane Austen novels for the tourists. For Lily, this seemingly ideal fulfillment of her fantasy of “living in a novel” instead becomes the stage for a slow process of self enlightenment and growth. One of the main plot devices was both whimsical and ironic. Lily speaks often of how the characters in Jane Austen’s books never learn from their mistakes – you can read them over and over and they continue to do the same things in each reading. This is also true of Lily’s life – she makes the same mistakes over and over – until she actually starts “living in a novel”. Repeating the same scenes, both literary and in real life, all summer help her begin discovering herself. I thoroughly enjoyed this book although at times I found Lily to be a bit too obtuse about herself. Some of the secondary characters lacked depth but were sufficient to carry the plot line. This book has many layers and would lead to a wonderful book club discussion. In the novel there are many interpretations of Jane Austen, the person. Book club readers will find lively discussion in their varied interpretations of Lily. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys literature and multi-level novels.
Rated of 5
by Kandi D. (Beaverton, OR)
Escape to the English countryside with Jane Austen!
This is a delicious novel for Jane Austen fans who just can’t get enough Jane. Lilly has plenty of reasons to run away from her miserable life in Texas. What better way to escape her troubles than to spend the summer in the English countryside reenacting her beloved Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. As she participates in the literary festival and becomes involved with the other organizers and actors Lilly, with the guidance of her invisible mentor Jane Austen herself, learns that she does have the strength to move forward with her life. I love a story where the protagonist grows as a person and I love Jane Austen. Highly recommended!
Rated of 5
by Wendy E. (Mechanicsville, VA)
My Jane Austen Summer
When her mother dies and her boyfriend breaks up with her, Lily Berry retreats into books. After being fired from her job for reading, she seeks solace in England with Literature Live, a novel re-enactment that her local Indie bookseller is involved with. Her dream of living in Mansfield Park as her favorite Austen heroine, Fanny Price, is quickly dashed as she comes to understand the social hierarchy of the actors, academics and volunteers involved with the production. This is certainly a book about using literature as an escape, but Lily is able to realize that regardless of the setting, she is never the protagonist in her own novel/life. As she struggles to understand her self and make sense of her situation, "her" Jane Austen is a shadowy figure in the periphery, offering looks of encouragement and consternation. Lily is a great character - a dash of Bridget Jones, Lizzie Bennet and Fanny Price. This is definitely a fun, engaging read for those who are Austen fanatics and those who are not!
Rated of 5
by Catherine M. (Grand Forks, ND)
My Jane Austen Summer: A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones
If you consider yourself a Janite (i.e., Jane Austen aficionado) and love "Mansfield Park," this book may be of interest to you. Through one of her characters—an English teacher, Omar—Cindy Jones readily acknowledges that “Austen’s work doesn’t adapt well or easily” (p. 37). However, Jones resolves this issue through her protagonist’s (Lily’s) conceptual confidante, “My Jane Austen.” Jones notes that we each have our own “My Jane Austen” through which we filter the 18th-19th century author’s work. And, it is through an understanding of and relationship with our own “My Jane Austen” that we will make interpretations about the meaningfulness of this novel. Overall, an interesting read.
Rated of 5
by Carol C. (Troy, NY)
My Jane Austen Summer
The book provides an interesting premise - sending the protagonist, Lily Berry, to a financially struggling, summer-long Jane Austen festival in what is ultimately an escape from her habit of living her life for others rather than herself. Eventually, without realizing it as it happens, she finds the life she needs to live for herself. Helping her - intentionally or not - is a colorful cast of characters. While few extend beyond the superficial, they serve the author's purpose of teaching Lily what she needs to learn. The book is amusing and, in places, poignant. A pleasant read.
Rated of 5
by Barbara S. (Glen Ellyn, Illinois)
My Jane Austen Summer - A Season in Mansfield Park
Cindy Jones in her novel, My Jane Austen Summer – A Season in Mansfield Park- has written a very creative, but complex story of Lily, a great admirer of Jane Austen. Such an intense admirer, Cindy Jones has made Jane Austen Lily’s best friend referring to her as “My Jane Austen”, Lily’s imaginary friend, and Lily’s favorite book of Jane Austen’s is Mansfield Park. After reading all of Jane Austen’s novels, Lily takes an opportunity to go to England to participate in the presentation of a Literary Festival featuring Jane Austen’s book Mansfield Park.
In Author Insights, Extra and More....at the end of the novel, author Cindy Jones recommends that the reader should read or re-read all of Jane Austen’s six novels. This is potent advice.
My Jane Austen Summer – A Season in Mansfield Park is a compelling book, containing many interesting facts about Jane Austen and her literature.
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