Monday, February 23, 2009
Book Review: "Jane Austen Ruined My Life" by Beth Pattillo
A Jane Austen "What If" Book
Emma Grant has traveled to England, to get away from the scandal involving her ex husband which caused her to lose her job as a professor. Her goal is to find the missing letters of Jane Austen that have been highly coveted by researchers and fans of Austen for years. The owner of one of the letters invites Emma to participate in a scavenger hunt of sorts to find the rest of the letters and discover who the real Austen really was. Along the way Emma begins to not only find out more about the true life of Jane Austen, but finding out more about her own self as well.
As a huge Jane Austen fan, I've been snapping up anything to do with her lately. She's become the newest trend in books, TV shows, and movies. And frankly I'm loving it as she was one of the best authors ever in history. This novel is a "What could have happened?" type of story dealing with Jane Austen and her long lost letters. Fans and researchers of Austen have always been devastated to hear that Austen's sister burned a majority of her letters. Imagine what a huge break into Jane Austen's life and personality it would be if those letters one day turned up?
Reading this book was absolutely lovely and one of the best ways to spend a rainy afternoon. I love stories that take place in England, whether they are modern day or historical. This book totally gave me the feel of being in Britain as the descriptions of the towns and cities made them come to life. British culture is very unique and as a reader, you can tell research had gone into making the story very authentic. It would be my dream to be Emma and experience this adventure. As a history major, literature lover, and closet Anglophile this book was right up my alley. You feel for Emma throughout the book. Every time she mentioned what happened with her ex husband, you feel her pain. It's totally understandable why she left and came to England to do something for her own self. The scenes with Mrs. Parrot and learning about the Formidables was probably one of the coolest scenes ever written for Jane Austen fans. I think if I had been in Emma's place at that point and held an authentic real Jane Austen letter, I would be freaking out.
My favorite scenes in the book are when Emma goes to the sites where Jane Austen had actually visited and with each site she becomes overwhelmed with emotions. One of the curators tells her not to worry because everyone who goes there acts in the same way. It's amazing how one writer has that power to captivate millions of readers throughout hundreds of years. My only qualm was the ending. I felt a little let down by it since there had been a lot of buildup. I also found it rather odd that Tom Lefroy was never mentioned at all in the whole book. Otherwise, it simply a wonderful book. It's a wonderful armchair traveler and it is also effective at taking you back into time as well. I really got into this story and it was one that I could not put down. It's really one of the best novels focusing on Austen ever. Beth Patillo has masterfully created a story that Jane Austen fans will love and needs to added to your Austen collection. HIGHLY recommended.
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo is published by Guideposts (2009)