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Book Review: Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

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I knew from the description on the back cover – not to mention the title – that this wasn't going to be your typical Jane Austen book. Having read most of the follow-ups, retellings and modern day setting Austen novels, I was excited to find a book that went at Austen from a different approach and it didn't let me down. There's no other way to put it – I adored Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

The main character, Emma Grant, has loved Jane Austen since she was young. How could she not when she's named after one of Austen's most famous characters? She became an Austen scholar and was a college professor with the dream job of teaching, studying, and generally absorbing herself in all things Austen. Then her world collapses. Emma finds out her husband is a cheating rat. In the midst of their divorce he manages to discredit her, get her fired, and make a mockery of her entire career.

Ready for a change in many areas of her life, Emma departs for London to stay in her cousin's flat and put her life back together. Her main reason for heading "across the pond" is to research Jane Austen's missing letters. Emma is convinced that if she can find even one of them her career can be resurrected and her life can begin anew.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life was rich and refreshing. It kept me guessing and left me feeling satisfied as well as inspired. Emma is such a great character, easy to care about and cheer for. The history of Jane Austen's life and times that is folded into the story is done so seamlessly. In fact, it piqued my interest and sent me off to do some Austen-era research of my own.

By the end of the novel I was ready to try new things and reach for new heights. Emma's quirkiness and spirit were so much fun and I was sorry to see the story end.

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