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What Would Jane Read? Episode 32: LFL2589

What Would Jane Read?
Episode 32

...in Which Action Figure Jane Austen Imagines Herself as a Detective and Learns of Modern Cookery and Scandalous Hikes

My family and I were in the Richmond, Virginia, area, where my son was to receive an award for Music Composition from the Virginia state PTA. Despite the drizzly weather, we were in a celebratory mood. Not only had my son won 1st Place in the state, but just that morning we'd received word that the PTA's National awards list had been released, and he had won at the National level as well! Because they were in a good mood, and because we were running a little early on our way to the state ceremony, my husband and son allowed me to indulge Action Figure Jane Austen's desire to visit a Little Free Library along the route.

The Little Free Library was in a residential neighborhood with lovely houses and large, wooded lots. Because of the rain, we had to jump over a puddle to reach the Little Free Library; Jane laughed at our dismay over the dampness. Being English, she can certainly tolerate some rain. While the day was not fine enough for making use of the sturdy wooden bench beside the book box, Jane approved of its presence; she always did enjoy reading outside among the joys of nature.

Jane and I brought along a book to leave in the Little Free Library, a mystery novel that casts Jane Austen herself in the role of sleuth. The book is Jane & the Wandering Eye, being the Third Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron. Jane has never actually solved a murder mystery, but is amused at the thought of a novelist thinking she might. And she loves the fact that the book cover art shows Detective Jane wearing a pink and white dress remarkably like the one she wears as Action-Figure Jane.

While my family waited in the car, Jane and I explored Little Free Library 2589, which has a sign beneath it that says the box was crafted by SFC Wood Works. It's rustic and sturdy, with the sides covered in decorative beadboard, and fits in well with its wooded setting.

Inside were two well-stocked shelves, with adult books above and books for children and teens below. Action Figure Jane added the Jane Austen detective novel to the selections, which already included work by bestselling authors including Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, and John Grisham.

Jane had trouble choosing just one book from this LFL. She was intrigued by a book in the juvenile section, Paula Deen's cookbook for children, My First Cookbook. The Austen family, while not wealthy, were members of the gentry and would have had a servant to do the cooking, so Jane herself did not have much experience in this area. Recipe books were known in Jane's day, but the idea of a cookbook specifically aimed at children was a new one for Jane. Even more surprising to Jane: one of the student cooks shown on the cover is a boy! In addition to the novelty of the cookbook, Jane was interested in reading it because she has noticed that modern Americans eat quite different meals from what she became accustomed to in Regency England, where plum pudding was popular and pizza unknown.

But in the end, Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, was the book Jane chose. Jane's affinity for walking amidst nature is well known. After all, she once wrote, “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” Still, she was shocked (and, she later admitted, a bit impressed) to learn that Strayed, an unmarried woman in her 20s, chose to walk a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Unchaperoned.

She can't wait to see how it turned out, though she wonders if Strayed was ever again accepted in polite company, after such a scandalous undertaking.