‘Jane Austen Ruined My Life’ a Satisfying First Novel

austenruinedlifeJane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo (Guideposts Books)

Emma Grant blames Jane Austen for encouraging her to believe in happy endings. Happy endings are in short supply in Emma’s life. First she found her husband Edward and her teaching assistant in flagrante delicto, on her kitchen table, no less. Then the assistant, with the backing of now ex-hubby, accused Emma of plagiarism, destroying her career as an English lit professor.

Emma responds to this insult by fleeing to England to track down an alleged cache of previously undiscovered letters by Jane Austen.

In England, she runs straight into Adam, the former best friend who dropped out of her life when she married Edward. And she encounters an eccentric grandmotherly woman who claims to have access to an unimaginable treasure—thousands of letters by Jane Austen.

Beth Pattillo’s first novel (to be followed this February by Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart) is an entertaining, emotionally satisfying story. Emma Grant is an independent, likable heroine with a sense of humor and a set of scruples, keeping her true to the spirit of Austen.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life moves quickly, pays homage to Austen’s characters and stories without being totally predictable, and includes plenty of fun Austen biographical and historical tidbits. I’m looking forward to Pattillo’s second book.

What About Mr. Almost Right?

Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) woos Marianne Dashwood (Kate WInslet) in "Sense and Sensibility."

Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) woos Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) in “Sense and Sensibility.”

It’s the sort of dilemma Jane Austen would have appreciated. A 38-year-woman writes in the Daily Mail in the UK that she is contemplating Settling for Mr. Not Quite Right rather than being alone, and wonders if she is doing the right thing.

“The vast majority of us have been conditioned to crave the dream of falling in love, marrying The One and living happily ever after,” writes Lucy Taylor. “It has taken me 38 years to wake up to the fact that this is just a dream.”

Perhaps, she muses, the practical view of marriage taken in “The Dark Ages” (including Jane Austen’s era) wasn’t that far off the mark. People married to better their position in society, support themselves and their families, and give a home to the children they hoped to have. Many marriages were arranged by the families, as they still are today in many cultures.

It’s a thought-provoking piece (I do wonder if her boyfriend read it, and how he feels about it). Despite having been in love three or four times and married twice (#2 is going on 24 years), I wouldn’t dream of advising someone like Ms. Taylor. Every woman has to figure out these things for herself.

[Read more…]