Author: Cora Harrison
Release date: UK hardback 5th March 2010, this paperback edition 7th January 2011
Genre: Historical fiction
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Summary from Amazon:
Based on real events, I WAS JANE AUSTEN’S BEST FRIEND is the secret diary of Jenny Cooper, Jane Austen’s teenage friend and confidante. Their evenings are a blur of beautiful dresses, balls, gossip and romance; their days are spent writing about them - Jenny in her diary, Jane in her first attempts at fiction. When Jenny falls utterly in love with a handsome naval officer, obstacles stand in their way. Who better to help her than Jane herself, who already considers herself an expert in love and relationships?
I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is a delightful, witty and entirely addictive historical novel!
I hadn’t really intended on reading I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend but when I ordered it for the library, one of my students asked me to read it before she did in case it had too much kissing. So of course, as a diligent and obliging librarian, I said I would. And I am so glad that I did.
I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is the story of Jenny Cooper – Jane’s best friend – who documents her life in her journal. Jenny is the heroine of the story and from the very first page I was gripped by her narrative. Talk about an opening! Jenny is desperately worried because Jane is sick with a fever and she thinks she might die if she doesn’t receive some proper care. The two girls are suck at a hideous boarding school with the cruel Mrs Cawley. So Jenny does a remarkably brave and risky thing, she sneaks out at midnight through a window and walks alone through the streets of Southampton to send a letter to Jane’s mother. As Jane rightly says, if this is to be a novel, then a handsome hero must soon appear.
I really loved the historical aspects of this story but I also loved how it felt contemporary too. Jenny is an adorable character. She is shy yet brave, graceful and also grieving for the loss of her mother. Her only remaining family is her brother and his bossy wife. They are the reason she is living in the terrifying boarding school at the beginning of the story. Jenny feels very burdensome to her brother and does not feel she can explain how much she hates it there.
Jane is every bit that you imagine Jane Austen to be when you’ve read her novels. She is incredibly sharp with her wit, tomboyish and loves to make up stories inspired by the people around her. She also has a tender side which is portrayed through her relationship with her brother George.
Once free of the boarding school, Jenny and Jane experience many delights of their time, they go to grand balls, dance, wear beautiful dresses and of course discuss finding love with handsome young men (of fortune).
I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend is an absolute feel good read. I didn’t want the story to end. It was hopelessly romantic and charming. It made me feel giggly and lightheaded. Friendship, romance, humour and the historical setting, make this book so utterly brilliant. I highly recommend it!