Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could travel back in time and change your life? If it were possible, what might you do? Right a wrong? Put something that’s on the wrong track on the right one? Or would you start all over again? If I could meet my past self, I’d say: don’t walk through that door whatever you do. But no, it’s too late now.
But here’s a question, what if you could do the same thing by going forward in time? It’s a mind-boggling question really. How could you possibly go ahead in time, and make your life better? I mean, what is this? A job interview for Google? But no, it’s not, rather it is the premise for Jane in Love (published by Penguin Books Australia, 2020), the debut novel of Sydney based writer and filmmaker, Rachel Givney.
Givney’s forward-in time-traveller is none other than English author Jane Austen. And even though Austen will one day become a literary icon, her family still wants to her to marry. And the sooner the better. At twenty-eight Austen risks being left on the shelf if a suitor doesn’t come forward before she turns thirty. Feeling the pressure, Austen eventually consults a matchmaker living in London’s east end.
The matchmaker assures Austen she’s never failed to deliver, but there are two key disclosures she fails to make. One is Austen will be sent two-hundred years into the future to find her match. And, more crucially, in exchange for guaranteed marital bliss, Austen must sacrifice something truly important to her. This turns out to be her work, and subsequent posthumous status as one of the most influential figures in English literature.
What would you do? Jane in Love is a story for the romantics among us, not the literary critics. Some of the subplots may grate on you, but overall Austen’s fumbling efforts to find love, and navigate London’s tube network, challenge enough for seasoned mass transit systems users, are entertaining. I was not surprised to read that the book has already been optioned by a film producer, a treat no doubt for those who enjoyed the novel.