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Jane Austen Ruined My Life: 03/23/09
I feel about Jane Austen as I do about Joseph Conrad; I prefer the adaptations to the original novels. I like Jane Austen slightly than Conrad in that I've actually managed to finish two of his novels and I've yet to make it past about twenty pages of any Austen novel. If loving Jane Austen is a requirement for the girls only club, then I'll have to tender my resignation!
That being said, I love the title and I tend to love bookish books. Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo imagines a secret society to protect the reputation of Jane Austen while keeping the truth of her life alive to only best and most dedicated scholars. Enter Emma Grant who has been lured to England after her husband and his lover have ruined her promising career. She is their latest recruit if she can successfully accomplish their list of tasks without betraying the deathbed wishes of Jane Austen.
Secret societies in fiction tend to send off warning bells for me as they can be so over done. Sometimes through an author makes them an interesting and believable part of the fiction (The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl and The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and now Beth Pattillo with her Formidables in Jane Austen Ruined My Life).
For the most part I enjoyed the book and the tasks that Emma had to complete which lead her through key points in Austen's life. I liked Adam and was interested in his romantic history with Emma. I have a few quibbles though with the novel's set up; if Emma is as much an expert on Austen as everyone claims she is, her university wouldn't be so quick to take the word of her husband and his lover on the groundless claims of plagiarism. Grant earning professor trumps grad student. Also, the ending didn't seem in keeping with the chick lit genre but a romantic ending wouldn't be true to the parallels between Jane and Emma's lives.
All in all, other than a rather weak plot device to get the novel rolling, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is a charming and entertaining blending of literary fiction and chick lit. Fans of Jane Austen will probably enjoy the novel most but this non fan enjoyed it too.
Comment #1: Tuesday, March, 24, 2009 at 06:01:12
This does sound like fun and I love the title and cover. I have only read P&P by Austen which I quite liked, but am not a big fan.
Comment #2: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 08:34:21
It's a fun book whether or not you're an Austen fan. Happy reading!
Comment #3: Tuesday, March, 24, 2009 at 09:24:39
Ha! right now Jane Austen is ruining my reading life because I'm struggling through Emma for a reading challenge. I'm sad to say I'm definitely not an Austen fan. But I might like reading books about her books, like the one you've mentioned here!
Comment #4: Tuesday March 24, 2009 at 20:39:24
I struggled and failed a Emma but you don't have to finish Emma to enjoy this book.
Comment #5: Saturday, March, 28, 2009 at 10:19:43
Thanks for the more thorough review. I'd seen little "blips" but nothing that told me very much about it so I appreciated this, thanks!
Comment #6: Sunday, March 29, 2009 at 17:34:34
You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the review.