"My Jane Austen Summer" by Cindy Jones

Cindy Jones makes one thing clear. Her debut novel, My Jane Austen Summer, is not fan fiction. “There is a lot of that out there,” she says. “The book I wanted to read is not out there.” The Lakewood resident spent five years writing the book she wanted to read. It all started with a New York Times Review of Books piece on Karen Jay Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club. Before she read that book, she decided, she wanted to read Austen’s Mansfield Park. So she did, and she wound up reading the entire Jane Austen bibliography. “I didn’t want to leave the Jane Austen world,” Jones says. So she decided to write her own book, inspired by that world. “It’s about a woman who is confronting her demons and using Jane Austen as her guide,” Jones says. The protagonist is Lily Berry, a 26-year-old woman whose mother has just died. Her boyfriend dumped her, and she got fired from her job (she was reading on the job, and her neglect caused a nasty accounting error). In the end, Berry finds “life is a gift that has meaning and purpose, but happiness is complex,” Jones says. “It has sadness and grief and fear. It’s not a blissful, happily-ever-after ending.” The book is widely available, and autographed copies are available at the T Shop in the Lakewood Plaza, Abrams and Gaston. And it’s book club ready, complete with its own signature tea. Jones collaborated with Bingley’s Teas, which has a line of Jane Austen-inspired teas, to create Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea. Jones says. Jones met the Bingley’s people, who are based in Minneapolis, at a Jane Austen conference. Jane Austen was only 41 when she died almost 200 years ago, but she has a worldwide following. Jones is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a group whose annual conferences always sell out. “The irony in her work is so sparkling and witty. And when you get it, it makes you feel smart,” Jones says. “If someone reads my book and decides to read Mansfield Park, that’s a great thing.” Jones’s next novel, which is almost finished, is about two women who trade places. —Rachel Stone

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