“My life was a disaster, but there were still books. Lots and lots of books. A refuge. A solace. Each one offering the possibility of a new beginning.” (91)
Jane Austen Ruined My Life was written by Beth Pattillo and published in February of 2009. I read it because I was in an Austen mood, and wanted something light and cheerful to offset my post-holiday, winter blues. It turned out to be just what I needed.
The book is about Emma Douglas–successful literature professor and Austen scholar–whose idyllic life begins to unravel when she finds her husband cheating on her with a teaching assistant. Emma loses her position at the University when the teaching assistant falsely accuses her of stealing a research paper, and Emma subsequently blames Jane Austen for ruining her life by making her believe in happy endings. In the midst of the scandal, Emma receives a letter from a woman claiming to have a cache of missing Jane Austen letters about a love lost. She promises Emma access to the letters once she undergoes a series of tasks tracing Jane Austen’s footsteps and proving herself trustworthy.
Once in England, Emma is reunited with an old acquaintance, Adam, who at once offers her scholarly competition, intellectual stimulation, and eventually, of course, love. From churches, to ballrooms, to the seaside, Emma’s journey through Jane Austen’s lost letters not only reveals the ill-fated love of the author, but helps Emma find herself and begin her new life.
I really enjoyed this book. Austen aficionados will enjoy the references to Austen’s novels, and indulging in a little fantasy over the fictional lost letters. Other readers will enjoy the book as a fast paced literary mystery with a dash of romance. I look forward to more from Ms. Pattillo.