It is a truth universally acknowledged, that 1 in 3 people are wholly enamoured by all things Jane Austen.* Her works delve into the realities of life facing those in the Regency period with wit and grace. Women and their roles within various spheres are shown, and for individuals who clearly didn’t grow up in this time, it is described clearly.
* Statistic made up courtesy of Radio and Library.
*Onwards with the spoilers!*
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn is what I term as Historical Sci-Fi (this term probably exists). Two individuals, Rachel and Liam, are assigned the mission of travelling back to 1815, and retrieving a series of letters and an unpublished novel from Jane Austen. They’re given money and a back story, complete with forged letters of introduction, to set themselves up in London society. They ingratiate themselves to one of Jane’s brothers and soon the series of events unfurl.
Throughout the book, they’re concerned with not altering history significantly for fear of irreparably impacting the future. They’ve also been told not to become to comfortable in the time they’ve been sent to. Considering how they’re to involve themselves in society, this task turns out to become a problem and they manage to change many aspects of life, impacting the Austen family as well as greater, more significant events.
They finally return to their original time, and find they’ve altered their futures (the present, at that point) through their actions, and Rachel and Liam face the prospect of modifying their memories to ensure they do not feel a discord with the world to which they’ve returned.
To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement. I love Jane Austen, I love time travel, and I loved how much I learned about life back in the Regency period. The book felt very well written and researched, and Rachel’s point of view allowed me to see how women from a more “modern” period may feel restricted by the social mores of the time. I also enjoyed how the conversations felt like they were from a Jane Austen/ Regency era novel, but when Liam and Rachel were alone they reverted back to language and syntax more appropriate to our ears.
If this book piques your interest, I highly recommend several novels written by Connie Willis, including To Say Nothing of the Dog, The Domesday Book (this one is actually amazing), Blackout and All Clear.
Would you want to modify your memory if you returned from the past to a different future?