Whatever the consequences of my actions have been, I have lived my life exactly the way I wished to. I suppose no one can ask for anything more than that. Yes, I am content. What good will it do to go on hating circumstances that are out of my very limited control? It is better to have lived with sorrow than not lived at all. After all, without great sorrow how would we know when we are fortunate enough to experience great joy?
Quick summary: After the death of her grandmother, literature professor and historian Violet Desmond learns that her whole life has been a lie. Millie leaves behind a few clues that send Violet on a hunt for the truth, and Violet soon learns that a cameo that belonged to her parents has put her life in danger. Plagued by dreams and visions of Jane Austen, Violet realizes she is seeing a part of the author’s life that no one knows about and that Jane needs her help. With the help of professional treasure hunter Peter Knighton, Violet must solve a riddle and uncover the dark secrets that haunted Jane before it is too late. In Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen, Rachel Berman takes Violet and readers on a journey from London to the archives and unexplored depths of Aerendgast Hallows to the places Austen visited in her lifetime and worked into her novels.
Why I wanted to read it: Of course, the Jane Austen connection grabbed my attention right away, but I’m always intrigued by novels that imagine some secret life for Austen, as I think she’d find them amusing.
What I liked: The “lost history” of Jane Austen is creative, and Berman makes it believable. I was surprised how emotional the novel made me, and when I teared up a few times, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t a true story! When reading a dual-narrative novel, I often find it hard to connect with the main character in the present-day, but Violet was a likeable heroine. I wanted to shake some sense into her at times, but I could understand her need to keep going at all costs, given all the gaps in her past and everything she missed while growing up. I especially liked the pacing of the story and the hint of danger throughout.
What I disliked: Although it didn’t bother me that I’d figured out the mystery before Violet did, there were things that should have been obvious to her earlier on but weren’t. I liked Peter and how his motivations for helping Violet were a bit complicated, and while his motives could have thrown a major wrench in Violet’s plans, this obstacle was eliminated a bit too easily. Also, the novel seemed to lose some steam toward the end, when the villains were hot on Violet’s trail, mostly because it wasn’t always clear what they were after, and all the running around was almost too much.
Final thoughts: Overall, Aerendgast was an exciting novel that drew me in from the shocking prologue. I enjoyed Berman’s writing, and I loved how she left open the possibility of Violet and Peter going on another treasure hunt. I really hope to see them again!
Disclosure: I received Aerendgast: The Lost History of Jane Austen from Meryton Press for review.
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