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Jane Austen Ruined My Life Paperback – February 3, 2009
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Emma Grant, the heroine of Pattillo’s first outing, has a major beef to settle with her literary heroine, Jane Austen. Austen’s novels taught Emma, a college professor, to believe in happy endings, but her own happy ending goes up in flames when she discovers her husband, Edward, in the arms of her teaching assistant, after which the two have her professionally discredited by claiming she plagiarized a paper. Disillusioned and disgraced, Emma flees the U.S. for her cousin’s house in England after being contacted by Gwendolyn Parrot, an elderly woman claiming to be in possession of a stash of lost Austen letters. Rather than simply handing over the letters, Mrs. Parrot sends Emma on a succession of tasks that gradually reveal a secret about Austen’s life previously unknown to scholars. Along the way, Emma reconnects with Adam, her former best friend whom she fell out of touch with after marrying Edward. Filled with all the whimsy and romantic literary fun the title promises, Pattillo’s novel is a rewarding read. --Kristine Huntley
Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo is smart chick lit that is an absolute pleasure to read. English professor and Austen expert Emma Grant is heartbroken after her divorce when an intriguing communication lures her to England and a possible cache of Jane Austen's unpublished letters. Her desire to inspect them is complicated by her renewed acquaintance with fellow professor Adam Clark, and the series of Austen-related assignments that the guardian of the letters gives to Emma. Yet through these tasks Emma learns about herself and her attitudes toward love and marriage. While the growing romance between the heroine and Adam is sweet, sweeter is the new sense of self that Emma gains. Written in first person and flavored with interesting Austen information, this is a book readers will drink down like a lovely cup of fragrant tea. --BookPage
Professor Emma Grant has always had faith in the happily-ever-after depicted by her favorite author, Jane Austen. But where's Emma's happy ending when she discovers that, instead of a Darcy, she's married a Wickham who both breaks her heart and destroys her career? Emma sets off for England on a quest to reestablish her academic credibility by tracking down the lost letters of Jane Austen and finds a romantic adventure of her own. Fun for Anglophiles and Austenites alike. --Library Journal
Pattillo... has created a lush story where England plays as much a character as anything else. For Anglophiles and Austen fans, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is a joy to read. --Oklahoma Gazette
Top customer reviews
I give this book a middling grade for several reasons: first, the reasoning behind Emma's actions is just not there. We're led to believe that Emma is intelligent but she often acts rather stupidly. Second, the tasks that Emma is supposed to perform aren't very interesting. Third, the writing is often trite and lazy, with cliched phrasing and unimaginative wording. I put the book away twice before I finally finished it. So it's an interesting premise that is underutilized and ultimately does not fulfill its promise.
Finally, the book was literally falling apart in my hands. It seems to have been glued, but not very well. I can't even remember the last time a book did this to me.
Our heroine of this novel, Emma Grant, seems to think so! Poor Emma has suffered from some serious disappointments in her life. She married a man she thought was her older and wiser Mr. Knightley and recently caught him in that act of adultery with her teaching assistant. That same teaching assistant has accused Emma of plagiarism (a claim supported by Emma's ex-husband), which resulted in Emma's dismissal from her university position and irreversible damage to her reputation.
While devastated that her marriage did not have the happy ending she was expecting, Emma still hopes that her career may be salvaged by making a new discovery concerning Jane Austen. Like many Austen scholars, Emma has wondered: What were the unknown secrets of Jane Austen's life. What occurred in those years where there is no correspondence or recorded writing attempts? What was in those letters that Cassandra destroyed? And most importantly, what if those letters weren't destroyed after all...
Emma embarks upon a journey to London, England where she intends to find these lost letters of Jane Austen and publish them. However, there are a few surprises in store for Emma such as living under the same roof as her estranged former best friend and discovering the existence of a secret society devoted to the preservation of Jane Austen's lost letters, to name a few.
"Jane Austen Ruined My Life" is an enthralling novel that was engaging and light. I loved the idea of a secret society of select Austen scholars safely guarding a massive collection of lost letters belonging to Jane Austen. In addition, I greatly enjoyed the "unknown" love story Ms. Pattillo cultivated between Jane Austen and another man. I took pleasure in touring many famous Austen haunts with Emma in this novel including: Chawton Cottage, Stevenson Rectory, and the National Portrait Gallery where Cassandra Austen's pencil and watercolor portrait of her sister is on display. These scenes were so vividly depicted I felt I was there myself.
What I didn't like about this novel was the ending; this book was like one of those trips where you enjoy the ride more than the destination. Like any Austen heroine, Emma gains new understanding about herself and what she needs to do with her life by the end of the book. While Emma does make some good decisions about her life at the close of this novel, we unfortunately don't get to see them all pan out including the romance between her and her former best friend, Adam.
Although Emma originally vowed that it was Jane Austen that ruined her life, she learns a difficult and valuable lesson about being responsible for making your own happiness and successes in life. While many of the couples in Jane Austen's novels may be perfectly matched, I don't think Jane Austen intended for us to believe that their marriages were "pictures of perfection."
I recommend this book for readers who enjoy Jane Austen chick-lit, however, if you are a hopeless romantic like I am, you may feel some disappointment with the novel's ending. Nonetheless, I greatly look forward to reading Beth Pattillo's new release, "Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart: A Novel."