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This is my third read for the Austen Challenge and it was quite a treat.  Let me make a short confession real quick before I delve into a full review of this delightful little treasure: I’m not really a huge Jane Austen fan.  In fact, as much as I love the story of Pride and Prejudice, I have only seen it in the movie format.  I’ve never actually gotten around to reading the acclaimed masterpiece.  So in many ways, I’m a fraud for even entering the challenge.  Still, I believe that my reading thus far has definitely piqued my interest in Jane Austen’s work and life.  For this reason, I plan to create a challenge for myself and anyone who would like to join to read (or reread) all of her major works and maybe even some biographical pieces.  I need to think this out more thoroughly before I make it official.  Please, look forward to a post on this later.  Now for the usual review format ….

Publisher’s Synopsis: Scholars estimate that Jane Austen wrote close to three thousand letters in her lifetime.  Almost all of them were supposedly destroyed at her death.  What secrets did Jane Austen have to hide?

Emma Grant has always done everything the way her minister father said she should – a respectable marriage, a teaching job, and plans for the requisite two children.  Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman.  Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for just foolish dreams.

Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal Emma packs what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England to find the missing letters of Jane Austen.  A reclusive widow claims t have the author’s correspondence, but she allows Emma to see the ltters only if she promises never to tell anyone about them.  Emma relunctantly agrees and sets off across Austen’s England – from Steventon to Bath to Lyme Regis – on a series of tasks that bring her closer and closer to the secrets Jane Austen hoped to bury.  And the reappearance of Emma’s old friend Adam doesn’t make her quest any easier.

As Emma uncovers the legendary author’s innermost thoughts, she beings to understand the reasons for her idols secrecy and Austen’s own struggles as a woman of faith.  Laced with excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the true meaning of loyalty.

About the Author: Beth Pattillo’s love for Jane Austen was born when she studied at the University of London, Westfield College, for one glorious semester.  Her passion quickly became an obsession, necessitating regular trips to England over the past twenty years.  When not dreaming of life “across the pond,” Pattillo live in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband two children.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 quills

Review: Let me just say that from the very first page, I loved this book.  Pattillo’s writing is just perfect.  I could easily relate to Emma: after all who hasn’t been betrayed?  Who hasn’t dealt with heartbreak and felt like all her dreams and hopes were broken beyond repair?  We all have hit what feels like rock bottom at some point in our life.  But it’s how we pick ourselves back up that really matters.  Emma discovers this as she embarks on what seems like an insane set of tasks throughout England revisiting some of the place where Austen spent her life.  As Emma completes her tasks, we learn more about Austen (both real facts and some of the speculations that Pattillo makes).  And through reading this, I fell in love with England.  Let me tell you, if I had the money I would be booking a plane ticket and hotel reservations instead of typing this review.  But alas, that dream will have to be put on hold.

What I loved the most about this book is that it reawakened some of my passions.  I haven’t written about it much on here, but I failed Nanowrimo this year.  Not enough time to devote to the endeavor.  Or maybe I just wasn’t quite ready for the challenge.  After all, since I started college, I had largely given up on writing.  Sure, I write essays constantly, but I’m talking about the sit down and write your heart out, create funky scenarios, and test your imagination kind of writing.  That is the kind of writing that I miss.  And this book made me want to go out and buy a new notebook and just sit down for a couple hours to see what came out.  Luckily, I got one for Christmas – a nice one with a hard cover and lots of pages.  Not that I necessarily have the highest expectations for my reawakened writing endeavors, but I’m excited to see myself writing anything in my spare time again.

And so for these and so many more reasons, I loved this book.  The lessons that Emma learned on her journey really hit home for me and I’m sure for many other reasons.  I definitely recommend anyone looking for a good story to take a chance on this book.  It has reawakened a passion of mine, taught me some valuable lessons about life, love, and just being a woman, and it has definitely made me more interested in Jane Austen.

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