When I was first offered this book to review, this thought ran through my mind: I like Jane Austen, whose life did she ruin and why?
This wonderful novel by Beth Pattillo did a good job answering my question.
The novel starts with the main character, Emma Grant, on a plane trip to England, set to destroy Jane Austen’s reputation through a set of undiscovered letters written by Jane Austen. The reason behind Emma’s determination? Emma was a University Professor and a Jane Austen scholar who found her husband and her teaching assistant having sex on the kitchen table. The TA later accused Emma of plagerizing one of her papers and the husband, Edward, backed up the TA, leading to Emma’s dismissal from her position. Without a home, a husband and a job, Emma blames Jane Austen’s promise of “happily ever after” after marriage for the end of her marriage and professional career.
In London, Emma stay’s at her cousin’s house, and wouldn’t you know it, her ex-boyfriend is staying there too, also invited by the cousin, who happens to be in Paris. Emma sets out to meet an elderly women named Mrs. Parrot who puts Emma through a series of tasks, each task is rewarded with one or two of the coveted letters. Mrs. Parrots holds the proverbial carrot over Emma with these letters, as they are an undocumented set, protected a secret society known as The Formidables. If Emma can acquire these letters, authenticate their history, they will be the vessel that places her back in the good graces of academia. While Emma’s plan seems sure-fire, she is not prepared for the emotional attachment and revelations that spring from these letters as well as the tasks she sets out to do. While on this secret missions, Emma learns more about Jane Austen’s life and love, as well as her own. Emma takes an introspective look into her life coming to mini realizations about herself and her relationship with Edward.
This book is well written and very funny. I started reading it before work, and had to very reluctantly put it down. The book was never too corny, it has just the right amount of wit, I had myself half hoping that iwas all based on a true-story at one point. Pattillo has a great admiration of Jane Austen, and while this is still “chick-lit” its intelligent chick-lit with a surprising ending, but an ending that I readily approved of. This book makes me want to fly out to England and scout out all the notable Jane Austen landmarks. Now that I’ve read almost all but one Jane Austen book, I felt that I could appreciate books about Jane Austen and her career more.
FINAL GRADE: AJane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo Guideposts, 2009 ISBN 0824947712 265 pages