Jane Austen Ruined My Life
Emma Grant is on board an airplane enroute for London where she will take her revenge on them all. Her last trip to London had been in first class with her ex, Edward. From that opening we travel with Emma, English professor, denied tenure based on the lies of a Teaching Assistant who was trysting with Edward, on a quest to find the rumored lost letters of Jane Austen supposedly destroyed in a fire.
It is during the reading of the prelude that we find our main character musing about how Jane Austen ruined her life, and her mother filled her head with notions of happily ever after, and her preacher father instilled the idea that God has a plan for everyone’s lives. All of that was before she became a grown up and married a cheating man who proved that there are not always happy endings to every situation.
A dutiful daughter, Emma has always done everything her parents expected. Divorcing her husband, and facing a penniless future was not part of their expectations. Emma does not know how to tell her parents the true cause of the divorce, the scandal leading to her losing her job, or any of the rest of the heart rending trials she has experienced. So, she kept her own counsel and sets out for London in the hope that she might forget her own misery and somehow pursue research which if she is successful she just might reestablish her credibility and again begin teaching.
It was soon after her arrival in London that Emma discovered her old friend, once her best friend, Adam was also a house guest in the home of her cousin Anne- Elise. It has been a decade since she last saw Adam, entered into a marriage with Edward and has found herself newly divorced.
Her parents despair at the divorce is understandable given their own upbringing, Emma’s compliant nature and their station in life. After-all Rev. Grant IS a minister.
The narrative moves quickly into settings in London, meeting with Mrs Gwendolyn Parrot who says she has the missing letters or at least some of them, Stanhope Gardens and school girls on the streets, a secret society devoted to the writer Austen, a picnic with Adam, meeting a debonair man over whom all the women tend to swoon, and a renewed sense of betrayal and loneliness, an offer of quite a huge sum of money and a clandestine kiss all boil down to one interesting, fast paced read.
Writer Patillo has both visited and studied in London and she brings the city and countryside into the story almost as a secondary character. The reader feels almost carried right into the locales where Jane Austen herself lived, stayed and penned her celebrated novels.
Emma Grant is a study in indecision based on great conviction. Her ex husband is an interesting, flawed character. Adam is a man we all hope to know, romantically or not. Emma’s decisions at last to find peace with herself and her dreams are understandable, readable and noteworthy.
“Jane Austen Ruined My Life” is filled with wittiness, some deception and more than a little pathos. During her quest following the tasks set for her by Mrs Parrot before she can be found worthy to read the letters held by the secret society Emma realizes that every person harbors clandestine thoughts, deeds or beliefs that serve to fashion the personality, moral fiber or character of the person. We are each compelled to make hard choices. We each face a moment when we opt for principle over dishonor, choose actual affection based in respect over Machiavellian maneuverings, or decide on uprightness rather than trickery based on self enhancement, just because it IS the right thing to do.
Reader who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy descriptions of the various sites and locales Emma visits. Those who thrill to all things English will find the tapestry woven filled with elegant imagery of gardens and churches, bookstores and train stations, as well as descriptions of seaside resort neighborhoods to be more than stimulating.