By Lori Smith

Back Cover:
Step into a Life of Grace. At thirty-three, dealing with a difficult job and a creeping depression, Lori Smith embarked on a life-changing journey following the life and lore of Jane Austen through England.

With humor and spirit, Lori leads readers through landscapes Jane knew and loved-from Bath and Lyme, to London and the Hampshire countryside-and through emotional landscapes in which grace and hope take the place of stagnation and despair. Along the way, Lori explores the small things, both meanness and goodness in relationships, to discover what Austen herself knew: the worth of an ordinary life

This book is an account of Lori Smith’s thoughts, feelings, and encounters on her journey through England visiting landmarks associated with Jane Austen, her books, and the movies based on her books. As a Christian single woman and fan of Jane Austen, I could very much relate to the author’s experiences, however, I felt disappointed that the weight of the book dealt with the author herself. Certainly, I could appreciate Smith’s willingness to share very personal details of her life and bare her emotions fearlessly without down-playing the intensity of her hopes and disappointments about life and love. Such vulnerability cast the author in the light of a character right out of an Austen novel.

Sometimes the details bordered on the category of “too much information.” Case in point: as early as page two, I learned about the “horrible excretory smells” in her grandparents’ house. Call me crazy, but I need to get to know someone a little more before I hear about their family’s potty problems. In fact, I noticed throughout the book Smith seems to take great notice of things she smells and her daily choice of clothing. I like descriptive details from an author in order to set the scene and paint a picture for the reader, but the details of scents and ensembles became like a quirk you discover about a new acquaintance.

The bulk of the book seems to drag along like a stream of consciousness. Smith goes into great detail about her fatigue, depression, anxieties, etc. Pretty soon, the reader is feeling fatigued, depressed, and anxious. She artfully makes comparisons with herself and Austen’s own experiences and her characters’ experiences, however, the significance might be lost on someone who is not familiar with Austen’s novels or her personal life. As someone who has never been to England, I wanted to know more about the places she visited and more about their relation to Jane Austen.
Finally, by chapter 17, I felt a kinship with Lori Smith. After all the pages of rambling and half-thoughts and jumble of emotions, she really has something to say in the final chapters of the book. Her wisdom gained from her journey with Jane about singleness, the risk of loving someone, independence vs. companionship, and the worth of an ordinary life is a very nice reward for the reader.

I enjoyed the book; I will remember it; I have found myself thinking about it since I finished it. It is a worthy read for those familiar with Jane Austen and her six novels – a fan who may never take such a journey in England has an opportunity to live it vicariously through Smith’s words. Smith obviously has great love and respect for Jane Austen and her work reflects it. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for people well-acquainted with Austen’s novels.

Reviewed by The Page Turner


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