November 8, 2005

Kathleen Norris meets Bridget Jones

So, this is the big idea for this book: Kathleen Norris meets Bridget Jones (with a good dose of Frances Mayes, as well). If that's possible and I can pull it off, that's what I'm aiming for. There are lots of biographies about Austen, and lots of fiction based on her writing, and everyone's writing a memoir these days. But, as far as I know, there aren't any memoirs based on the writer's interaction with Austen and her material, which is what this will be.

And while there are some great Austen biographies, I don't think there are any that fans of her writing have devoured. I want this to be that book. It will be well researched, but it's not a straight-up, academic, let-me-tell-you-all-the-details-of-Austen's-life biography. It's one devoted fan sharing the aspects of Austen's life that are most interesting to her, and that, I think, will be most interesting to readers as well.

It will be about love, heartache, family, the meaning of home and community. Independence, marriage, children, learning, work -- a woman's place in the world. And writing and creativity, and even a little jealousy and fame.

And it will be about faith. While Austen didn't record anything about her own spiritual journey that we know of, except for a few references in her letters, she was immersed in the Anglican church. Her father and two of her brothers were rectors. She penned a couple prayers which survive. And her faith evidences itself in a gentle way in her writing.

Mostly it will be about faith because I can't write about my own life without writing about my own delights and struggles in my relationship with God. I've recently found a home in the Anglican church, and it makes me happy to feel some sense of connection with so many of the writers I love, including Austen. How does my faith differ from hers? That question may be impossible to answer, but I will investigate it.

Lastly -- or perhaps primarily -- it will be about travel. The narrative progression will be based on the month-long trip I took in July 2005 to follow Austen's life through England. Lovely Bath, gray Lyme, the quiet Hampshire countryside, me nearly losing my way on a solitary trek through the fields around Steventon, and hitchiking in the rain, and finding comfort and solace in evensong at Christchurch Cathedral. I love Austen, and England -- and I hope this book will be a trip many Austen fans will want to take.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kristine said...

I'm going to have to go out and read some Frances Mayes and Kathleen Norris now! Thanks for the links to their books.

11/10/2005 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous john paget said...

I have a lot of unaswered questions about Jane Austen. I mean, I read Pride & Prejudice in college and really enjoyed it. (is it OK for a man to admit that?)
But I have never understood Austen fanatics...what is going on there?
Perhaps your writings will indirectly answer that.
I don’t look down on them or think they are nuts or anything.
(For goodness sake, anyone who has defended and tried to explain Elvis impersonator fanaticism has no right!)
But I think you really may be on to something with your concept for the book, and I wish you luck!

11/10/2005 10:45:00 AM  

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