Book 510: Jane Austen Ruined My Life (Adventures with Jane Austen and Her Legacy #1) – Beth Pattillo

What another fun quick read for the summer!

I didn’t realize that Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart was part of a trilogy, but you know as soon as I found out I bought this, the first novel, and I bought The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, book three. They’re not really a trilogy, but loosely connected in theme and subject matter.

I do wish I would’ve read this one first, because I feel like Pattillo did a better job of explaining The Formidibles in this book than she did in the second, but obviously there’s a reason for that. [It’s the second book, DUH! – I’m still grumpy about reading them out of order.]

Seriously though, how could you not love this?

“‘So, what are you people, the Jane Austen mafia?’ Or some sort of deranged group of fairy godmothers? I didn’t voice the second question aloud.” (200)

And who among you who call yourself Jane Austen fans WOULDN’T joint his secret group?! I know I would in a heartbeat, even if it meant never being able to share what I knew with anyone else.

The story is pretty light in the sense that there wasn’t a lot of thought required to enjoy the book (a perfect summer read), but where Pattillo really got me this time was with the protagonist’s description of the Treasures of the British Library (BL website) collection:

“I moved from one to the next, barely aware of Adam beside me. It was one thing to study the great writers of the English language, but another to stand there, looking at their actual work, their handwriting, their literary footprints preserved on the original page.” (114)

And then again of the portraits in the National Portrait Gallery, where this past summer I got to see the famous Brontë portrait and the Emily solo portrait (National Portrait Gallery links)

“While I loved the elegant portraits by the most renowned artists of that day, my favorite portrait had little, if any, artistic merit. It was also quite small, no more than a few inches square. The subject’s sister had done a quick study in pencil and watercolor, left half finished, and no relative of the subject had ever thought it much resembled the person who posed for it.” (161)

I was VERY disappointed that the Jane Austen portrait by Cassandra Austen (NPG link) wasn’t on display while I was there this past summer, especially after this passage in which the protagonist visits it and sits in front of it for a very long time.

Pattillo did a wonderful job of putting me back in London. I’ve been to London quite a few times and even the places I haven’t been to she described so beautifully that I felt like I could have been there. (How did I not know about Hatchard’s?)

In addition to her beautiful descriptions, in both books Pantillo has turned the happily ever after expected from Jane Austen fan-fiction/spin-offs on their heads. I won’t say that she revolutionized them, because she didn’t really, but in both books I was hoping for the traditional happily ever after and then when Pantillo offered something else I was okay with it. This ending was better than Mr. Darcy if only because I felt like it gave the female character a lot of power and wasn’t a happily ever after cop out.

Recommendation: Definitely worth it for a light summer read. There’s enough of real London in here to make me appreciate the book and enough female empowerment that it isn’t just another Rom-Com waiting to end in marriage.

Opening Line: “I pulled the well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice from my tote bag and stowed the bag under the seat in front of me.”

Closing Line: “It was, in the most unexpected way, the happiest beginning I could have imagined.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)


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