Many artists, whether they be poets, painters or writers will often draw from real life when creating their work.
Jane Austen is no different.
One of the myths of Jane Austen’s life is that her brief, youthful romance with Tom Lefroy was one of several elements of her personal life that readers later encountered in her books.
Whether it is fact, fiction or a little of both, John Spence’s 2003 book, Becoming Jane Austen explores the idea of a potential relationship that Austen might have had with Tom Lefroy and how that relationship later worked itself into her novels.
Jane Austen is a mythic figure among writers and book lovers. Her characters have become cultural figures onto themselves. But we know only some of the facts about her personal life. Austen’s older sister and best friend, Cassandra, burned many of her sister’s letters after her death, leaving modern readers with questions about her life that are lost to time.
Anyone who knows me knows that Jane Austen is one of my heroes and one of my favorite writers. I picked up this book, because from writer to another, when you know the personal source material, the fiction is much more potent.
I was sadly disappointed. Mr. Spence, in my opinion, spent too much time on Austen’s family tree in the first couple of chapters. By the time he reaches the romance with Tom LeFroy, I expected to be presented with the facts about Austen’s life during that period.
Did I expect a reenactment of Becoming Jane? No. But I was looking for some proof that this relationship was real.
By the time I finished the book, my questions remained unanswered.
Do I recommend the book? I will put it this way. If you are an experienced Janeite, then yes. If you are a newbie Janeite or you know nothing about her besides her books, then no.