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Just Jane
by Nancy Moser

Reviewed by Heather R. Hunt

"Moser succeeds in bringing Jane Austen's quiet life to life for the reader by mixing together thorough research, a novelist's imagination, and a woman's intuition."

"Just Jane" is Nancy Moser's second biographical novel after the intriguing "Mozart's Sister." Judging by "Just Jane," Moser has a real knack for this genre-crossing method of historical storytelling.

As a biographer, Moser succeeds in bringing Jane Austen's quiet life to life for the reader by mixing together thorough research, a novelist's imagination, and a woman's intuition. In authorial notes Moser acknowledges the use of her own experiences as a sister author to guess at Jane's reactions to the events in her life as well as how these trials and triumphs may have contributed to the particular novels that Jane wrote during those times. Readers can be comfortable with the results of Moser's educated guesses because of the thorough explanations given at the end of the novel in her "Dear Reader" and "What is Fact and What is Fiction" articles. Moser also gives biographical information for the rest of the Austen family in her "What Happened Next?" article.

As a novelist, Moser succeeds in telling Jane's story in such a way that it reads just like a Jane Austen novel! Except the sisters in this case don't end up with their Mr. Darcys ...

Moser has Jane tell her story in the first person, which makes it feel like an autobiographical novel and brings readers even closer to Jane Austen the woman and the writer. In addition, many if not most readers will identify with Jane's struggle to be herself in a time that was very restrictive for women. It's a triumph when she learns who she is and how to be content with being "Just Jane." As a bonus, Moser also gives us a full-blooded portrait of Cassandra and the vital sister/mother/mentor relationship she has with Jane.

This is a lovely book to be read with a cup of tea by a gently crackling fire in a quiet sitting room. Readers will not only learn all there is to know about Jane Austen in an enjoyable and creative format, they will also be led to ponder their own gifts and talents and whether they are meeting their God-given potential. "Just Jane" is much more than just a novel.

Heather R. HuntHeather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.