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Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review - Kindred Spirits

June Barraclough's book, Kindred Spirits, is set during the same era as Jane Austen and Lord Byron. In fact, Barraclough's main character is Austenish in that her first name is also Jane--Jane Baham. She is a young woman of moderate income (very Austenish) with few prospects for a notable marriage. Upon her father's death, Jane moves from the country to London to live with her uncle, his wife and children.

She's new to the more sophisticated ways of London life and is soon introduced to a circle of young friends who share a passion for writing. Philip March, one of them, is the editor of a new publication and he invites Jane to share her observations and writing abilities for pay. Jane also is befriended by Fred Digby--an older and yet kind and understanding man--who is trapped in an unhappy marriage.

It seems that Jane is fated to be just friends with three men in her life with little hope of marriage. Philip and Jane are not drawn to each other as love interests. Fred is unavailable though captivated by her. Jane determines she will probably not marry and clings to the hop that she can support herself through her writing. (Again I find a parallel to Austen who did this very thing.)  However, she is not able to resist the charms of   Charles, the mysterious and unfortunate poet with whom she becomes infatuated. The more she tries to draw near to him, the more troubled and elusive he seems to be. It is his mysterious comings and goings, his deep woundedness, and mystique that kept me reading on--an excellent hook to hold the reader.

The language, setting, and writing is very true to Austen, better than most novels I have read set during this time period.  Barraclough has done an excellent job replicating, and like Austen, little of significance happens. There are no grand occurrences--not even balls. Where she departs from Austen is the ability to make her character's banter and personalities as deep and captivating as Austen's. But of course, this is to be expected since Austen's genius is what makes her so extraordinary. 

Barraclough has an unexpected twist in her story--a secret I won't disclose so as not to ruin the ending. If you can hold on through the first one third of this book it improves. I give the 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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