Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House:
Being the Sixth Jane Austen Mystery
by Stephanie Barron


amazon.com
Hardcover
Mass Market Paperback 
 384 pages (October 29, 2002) 
Crimeline ); ISBN: 0553578405
Audio Cassette
Books on Tape; ISBN: 0736684832; (May 2002) 
amazon.co.uk
Hardcover
Mass Market Paperback
 384 pages (October 29, 2002) 
Crimeline ); ISBN: 0553578405
amazon.ca
Hardcover
Mass Market Paperback
 384 pages (October 29, 2002) 
Crimeline ); ISBN: 0553578405

            Written by Joyce Buckley (10/11/2002 11:22 p.m.)
I have just finished reading the 6th Jane Austen mystery, "Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House". Well it is an improvement on the woeful number 5. Unfortunately Barron's Jane is still harbouring certain tender thoughts of Lord H. The navy is definitely to the fore and several members of the Austen family make more than cameo appearances, especially naval brother Frank.

Still, this Jane seems to jump to some incredibly absurd conclusions on very flimsy evidence and a good deal of supposition. The final convolutions in the plot seemed too tortuous, while the motives then explained were in the end, for me, not terribly convincing.  Also, Barron definitely seems to want her Jane to have a knife into Austen's mother as both a faking, peevish invalid and a desperate matchmaker. Just how much of this is her imagination a how much fact? It appears she is using ideas of Mrs. Bennet for this picture.  We all know Austen was an acute and truthful observer of the foibles of human nature and was often quite cutting on the topic. However this tone in Barron's Jane often goes too far in this direction - almost descending to the pettishly spiteful (especially regarding several female characters). 



            Written by Tori Marie (10/12/2002 3:03 p.m.)
] Also, Barron definitely seems to want her Jane to have a knife into Austen's mother as both a faking, peevish invalid and a desperate  matchmaker. Just how much of this is her imagination a how much fact?

I haven't read this latest installment, Joyce, but I agree with you completely on this point with regard to the earlier ones. It seems as if Barron has taken all of the worst of such characters as Mrs. Bennet, Mary Musgrove and Mr. Woodhouse and mixed them up into poor Mrs. Austen. :-P

Why she does this, I don't know. Maybe it's simply to give herself an opportunity to use Austen's lines, such as, "He is a most undeserving young man and I don't suppose there's the least chance of her getting him now." ;-) (I do admit that the first time I read these I delighted in the interjection of JA's dialogue, just for the recognition factor, but I also can see how it could be a most impolitic practice!)

I do know that the impression of Mrs. Austen that I get from reading biographies and letters is very different from the one I get in reading Barron's novels. Whereas the real-life Mrs. Austen seems--to me--to have had both merits and faults like all human beings, Barron's Mrs. Austen seems more like a hodgepodged caricature of several fault-heavy, fictional characters.

Also, as you mention, Barron's Jane Austen is not so very kind and accepting of her mother as I believe our real-life Jane must have been. Could the woman who created Lizzy and Jane Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Fanny Price really have been so intolerant of her own parents' foibles? Even Lizzy, who seems naturally to spring to mind when considering this topic, has some love for her mother and shows her proper respect. I cannot imagine that a woman who had the sensibility to write these women's stories and describe their relationships with less-than-perfect parents and guardians, would have been so disdainful toward her own mother.