STORY: Living in the shadows is a safety net Mary Davis is comfortable with. Whether it be the well-ordered world of her job (working at a startup company as an engineer) or the comfort of evening dinners shared with her father, Mary isn’t bold, but she’s happy. Then suddenly her childhood best friend, the whirlwind that is Isabel, returns.
Isabel has a trip to England planned – a trip that includes a Jane Austen experience in Bath. It’s a trip that brings back many memories for Mary, memories of her mother’s love for Austen. But a trip Mary says “no” to. Eventually, she changes her mind and becomes entangled in a challenging situation when Isabel begins to believe they are really living in Austen’s world.
The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | Book Review
Unfortunately for me, there seems to be no “happy medium” when it comes to the task of book reviewing. Typically, there seems to be one of two kinds of reviewing. There are either the books a reviewer struggles with because they simply weren’t said reviewer’s cup of tea. Then there are those that are so darn good a reviewer doesn’t even know where to begin – because how do you accurately compliment a book that sparkles?
This is the conundrum I find myself in often. Such as today.
Each of Katherine Reay’s novels feature beautiful components that unite to create the best kind of story. There’s something organic about Reay’s writing and narratives that the reader just “gets.” They’re entertaining, but kind of heartbreaking. Lighthearted, but complex. All contradictory things that somehow work together as opposed to against one another. Then there are the characters.
Sometimes the characters we meet inside these novels take some time to warm to. Other times we instantly love them. No matter which reaction they inspire, they’re always genuine. This is a talent Reay continues to hone. The ability to craft characters who tunnel into our hearts where they remain. In ‘Austen,’ we meet characters of both dispositions. We adore Mary, and I don’t think I’m out of line to say, many of us will relate to her. Then there is Isabel. She’s a complicated soul flawed in greater ways than most characters, yet for some reason, I did like her. I felt for her. I wanted her to succeed and become the person I know she can be.
BOOK REVIEW | Lady Jayne Disappears: Haunting Gothic Debut
Love #fiction inspired by the works of #JaneAusten? Don't miss The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay – Escapism at its Brightest, Most Classy & Finest Click To Tweet
Colin Firth had never occupied a moment of my time; Downton Abbey never swallowed a Sunday evening; and even love, friendship, and zombies had failed to entice me into the theaters.” – The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Mary, by contrast, is the exact opposite of Isabel. She’s the girl-next-door, the kind of character who’d be the loyal best friend we’d all admire. Her journey feels complete and full, satisfying in the subtlety of the story’s characterization. This is just one of the many ways Reay’s novels shine. Another is in the nuances of her story. She writes layered fiction unlike any other author in this contemporary era. Her books continue to inspire and root out the character’s truths and flaws. All of whom are often beautiful messes.
The only flaw in this story is my personal reaction to it. While reading* this one, I felt (and know I was!) a little distracted by life. That said, on the upside, all this means is an eventual reread is sure to leave me feeling as if I’m discovering a story anew. Even saying all of this, I haven’t even mentioned Nathan. Limited though his page time is, he’s one of THE best men in fiction I’ve ever met. Saying more will reveal spoiler-y things. My remedy to you is this; discover the reasons why by reading the book.
Anyone who hasn’t read a novel by Katherine Reay is missing out. Her stories never disappoint.♥
ABOUT the BOOK
(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure page for details.)
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson / TNZ Fiction
Publication Date: 2017
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary Fiction
Source: Author provided – thank you!
FIND the BOOK ELSEWHERE: Amazon | Goodreads
FIND the REVIEW ELSEWHERE: Goodreads | WordPress
(*Shoutout to all of my bookish friends who had an epic read-along for this one! Our tweets go a little overtime in the fangirl department – #BookwormWIN!! – but if you want to take a look, you can find them under #TAERAL.)
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of The Austen Escape; all opinions are my own.