Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Release Spotlight: Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Jane Austen Ruined My Life
by Beth Pattillo

With so many other books and movies lauding Jane Austen, it was smart for author Beth Pattillo to use a more antagonistic title for her ode to the English novelist. In Jane Austen Ruined My Life, Emma Grant feels secure in her marriage and career, hoping to soon start a family of her own. But after walking in on her husband cheating on her, the idealized world she thought she’s created crumbles beneath her. Even her career is jeopardized by the scandalous nature of her husband’s affair. Seeking refuge from the humiliation, Emma goes to England in search of answers. At the forefront, she wants to meet Mrs. Parrot, an old woman claiming to hold the secret lost letters of Jane Austen.

In the background, of course, is Emma’s journey into herself. While trying to find the wrong in Jane Austen’s view of love, Emma discovers what is right about her own love and life.

The strongest and most engaging parts of the book are the passages on Jane Austen’s life, real and imagined. Pattillo’s own adoration for Austen and her novels is apparent; she takes time with the scenes in which Emma is searching for answers to the elusive Austen. Emma wanders through The National Portrait Gallery, contemplating a portrait of Austen: “She looked a little annoyed but not unpleasant, as if someone had interrupted her work, but since she loved that someone, she would tolerate the interruption.” Emma is so taken with the portrait and Austen’s life she is moved to start writing again, right there in the gallery.

When the story goes back to Emma’s own life complications, Pattillo’s writing is less thoughtful. As Emma visits Covent Garden, she finds the vendors and their secondhand goods “charming,” and then is “charmed” by the tourist attractions. The love triangle Emma finds herself in is riddled with clich├ęs, such as the handsome stranger who seduces Emma and dialogue that includes lines like “I just want you to be happy” and “Time will tell.”

Pattillo redeems herself when the story returns to Emma’s search for the truth about Austen. In a lovely, romantic scene, Pattillo keeps it from becoming too melodramatic by winking at the Austen allusion, as she does throughout the book. The small touches of this, such as when Emma mocks her friend by commenting he is as Austen would have observed, “sadly lacking as a correspondent,” are indeed charming.

Review by Kori Hirano, Indigo Editing & Publications

ISBN: 9780824947712
Publisher: GuidepostsBooks
Pub Date: February 2009
Trade Paperback: $14.99

1 comment:

  1. I love Jane Austen and maybe this book is one to pick up. Especially in its regard to marriage and what we expect from it.