Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith

I admit I am a card-carrying member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America) and as an avowed memoir addict, this book just screamed at me! Not to mention, I am starting my summer travels, so a book about extensive traveling also was super-appealing. Luckily, Ms. Smith totally came through.

Amy is an English professor in California, interested in South and Central America, and a lover of Jane Austen. She has a sabbatical year and decides to spend it traveling south of the border, toting America's favorite Austen novels, with the goal to get discussion groups going in all six countries to see if Latina/os will feel the same connection to Jane's heroines that we do. She goes to Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina, and brings along Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, discussing each book in two countries. Along the way she drastically improves her Spanish-language skills, meets many varied and interesting people, gets a wide variety of opinions on Austen, and in true Austen fashion, falls in love.

This book really spoke to the English major in me, bringing up topics about Austen's books (feminism, class, is Marianne and Colonel Brandon's marriage a cop-out? is Jane Fairfax the real heroine of Emma? is Mr. Bingley too much of a boring dolt, even for Jane?) that I'd never thought of, and while I'd already been planning to reread an Austen this year, this book really inspires me to do that. I really want to reread, not just one but all (well, maybe not Mansfield Park) which probably won't happen all this year but I can get started!

I wasn't sure how the travelling around Latin America would go for me - while I do love to travel, being mono-lingual, Latin America scares me. But Amy has all great experiences! In fact, I'm tempted to move Latin America up on my itinerary, although not in the immersive sort of way Amy did it (still monolingual after all, and not likely to change.) I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I got this book for free from the publisher, although not with the expectation that I would review it.


Stacy at The Novel Life said...

This sounds like one for me & both my daughters! My 2nd daughter wants to learn Spanish through immersion in Argentina & we all love Austen! Thanks for the recommendation!

Amy Elizabeth Smith said...

Thanks so much for your kind words here! And I'm really glad the book made you want to get back to Austen!

Amy Elizabeth Smith