Jane Austen Ruined My Life, by Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the latest (and one of the more interesting) examples of the many, many novels inspired by Jane Austen’s life and work.

Recently divorced American college professor Emma Grant's life is in shambles: her ex-husband cheated on her with her teaching assistant, she has been falsely accused of plagiarism, and she's flat broke. Desperate to turn things around, Emma takes a chance on a letter from an Englishwoman claiming to have a collection of Austen’s long-lost correspondence... but before she'll be allowed to read the letters, Emma’s mysterious new mentor wants her to complete a series of Austen-related tasks.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life has some significant faults. I caught one Austen-related error*, and I found Emma’s attitude towards money incredibly off-putting. She spends the first half of the book stressing over her lack of funds, but she’s always eating out, and when she pawns her wedding jewelry she immediately blows a huge sum of money on a couture dress—without repaying the handsome, recently re-discovered childhood friend who has been steadily lending her cash over the course of her English adventure.

On the other hand, Pattillo’s novel does a solid job of blending mystery, romance, and alternate history in a way that is both entertaining and respectful of her source material. In a world overrun with poorly-written and -researched continuations, reinterpretations, and contemporary updates of Austen’s novels, Jane Austen Ruined My Life comes across as surprisingly creative and smart.

*Pattillo gets the name of the principal family of Mansfield Park wrong. However, this review was based on an uncorrected proof, and the name may have been fixed in the finished edition.
Posted by: Julianka


24 Apr, 2009 09:25 PM @ version 0

Finally- the first review I have read that mentions the Mansfield Park error. I have a copy from the library, and I assume this is the final published copy. This mistake really bugs me- that it was not caught during the editing process and that it's such a basic fact of the novel.

28 Apr, 2009 01:14 AM @ version 0

Heh! We were worried about seeming a little too picky by mentioning the MP thing, so it's nice to know there are fellow Austen obsessives out there.

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