All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith
Inspired by Reading Lolita in Tehran, the literary chronicle of a year spent reading Jane Austen throughout Latin America.
I love Jane Austen fan fiction. When I saw this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Kindle Book Deal list months ago, I bought it right away. After reading Wanderlove, I was sort of fixated on Belize and Guatemala. I was expecting The Jane Austen Book Club in Central and South America. I thought the book was going to be fiction. It’s not. It’s non-fiction, more of a memoir than anything else. An Eat, Pray, Love meets Julie and Julia type book.
I worked my way through this book SLOWLY over three months. As someone who reads 10-12 books a month, that was EPIC.
I enjoyed the Austen book discussion portions of this book. Unfortunately, there was a lot of other stuff in between – random historical facts about various Central and South American countries, tidbits of personal relationships, musings on stereotypes, commentary on native authors of the different countries, and descriptions of people, locations, and medical ailments.
The writing in this book was not great. There was too much unnecessary detail. Even in the book discussions, it seemed like no comment was eliminated, and even some Spanish was included, when obviously the reader is an English reader. It reads like a text book at times, which isn’t entirely surprising given that the author is a literature professor.
I almost stopped reading this book many times, but I was enjoying the Austen references at least most of the time. The beginning of the book was better than the latter half. Maybe because I was losing steam or maybe because Smith got sick of writing the same stuff in different countries. I liked her comparisons of real people to Austen characters, but that stopped after the first chapters. Luckily, after my endurance, I was at least rewarded with a good ending.
I admire Smith’s courage and sense of adventure. And her idea to study Austen in other cultures was inspired, but I don’t think one or two book groups per country is really enough to draw conclusions. The scientist in me was looking for some actual scientific method. Since the book seemed so academic, the approach should have been more controlled.
I wanted to love this book. I think that’s why I keep going until the end. Sadly, I just didn’t.
My Rating: 2 Stars
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