Fresh off an ugly divorce from her cheating husband, who also ruined her career, Emma goes on a pilgrimage to England to find the lost letters of Jane Austen. Emma is an Austen professor, an Austen fanatic, an Austen "junkie", as she sets out on her quest in hopes of restoring her credibility and reputation. What she restores is her faith and hope in all things Jane Austen...and herself.
"It's hard for modern-day people to imagine how lives used to be changed by the receipt of a letter. Today, bad news comes over the phone, in an e-mail, or via a text message. But in Jane Austen's day, important information had to travel by post, and so many historical, life-changing moments still rest upon the pages for us to witness."
Jane Austen's life was recorded in her letters, but her sister, Cassandra, is believed to have destroyed Jane's letters before her death, leaving her fans without the knowledge of several years of her life. Thus, much of Austen's life remains a mystery, adding to the magic of her novels. This much is true. We also know from our literary texts that Jane Austen never married - but how could the woman who penned some of the greatest love stories ever told not have found her own true love?
Beth Pattillo takes us on a wonderful journey to help fill in some of the gaps in Austen's personal life with a fictional tale of a secret society known as The Formidables, who swore to secrecy and to protect the lost letters of Jane Austen. She takes us from Austen's humble birthplace, her family's retreat in Bath, several stops in between, and finally to her last home where she spent her final days. This is not the fan-lit that is so popular now, taking Jane Austen's books and retelling them or creating would-be sequels. This is a book all unto its own.
If you loved Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility as I did, you will thoroughly enjoy reading this lovely story of how these novels might have given us some clues into Jane Austen's true love life. Did she find her Mr. Darcy? Her Mr. Knightly?
I will say, if you have not read Austen's classics, you might miss a few key references, like the Cobb from the scene in Persuasion where Louisa Musgrove jumped from the higher level of the Cobb instead of the lower steps, expecting Captain Wentworth to catch her. Even though Pattillo reminds us of the scene, it may not resonate with readers who haven't read the novel and feel a connection to it. Jane Austen's novels move me to laughter and tears, and reading Jane Austen Ruined My Lifewas pure joy. I read it in one day, I couldn't put it down.
The only thing I would change about this book is the ending, which of course I won't give away. Still, I enjoyed this book so much that I have Beth Pattillo's Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart on my nightstand, and I can't wait to read that one!
If you are a lover of Austen's novels as I am, read this book. It's a wonderful, light, fun story, and one that I had to keep reminding myself was fiction. I so wanted it to be true.
Thank you to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a copy of this book!
About the Book:
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: GuidepostsBooks; First Paperback Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
About the Author:
Beth Pattillo's love for Jane Austen was born when she studied at the University of London, Westfield College, for one glorious semester. Her passion quickly became an obsession, necessitating regular trips to England over the past twenty years. When not dreaming of life 'across the pond,' Beth lives in Nashville with her husband and two children.