I enjoyed every minute of the PBS Masterpiece ‘Miss Austen Regrets.’ With the introductory caveat that this is a work of the imagination as very little is known of the author’s life, the script takes off on its own. The result is most entertaining.
The script by Gwyneth Hughes is well written and well conceived. Jane Austen, in her fortieth year, does not spout witticisms like so many of her characters, but there are just enough lines lifted from her work to keep the close reader of her novels alert, and enough in the dialogue and action to forecast her writing of ‘Persuasion,’ which takes place towards the end of the story, before she becomes ill.
The inclusion of the author’s niece, Fanny, was a masterstroke. It gave the story the same arc as Jane Austen’s novels, with the marriageable young lady struggling to find the right man and make the right decision – the wrong decision was fatal in her day – and with her wedding concluding the story. Jane Austen is both sought out and rejected as counselor, both loved because of her success as a novelist and the success of her marriageable heroines, and shunned because of her single state.
In the end, Miss Austen has regrets, but she accepts that she made the decision that made her an author. What she missed in life she was able to find compensation for in her writing.