Sunday, February 8, 2009

They got me again! Honestly, these authors and publishers seem to know how to effortlessly get rabid Anglophiles to part with our dosh. Simply throw the name of one of our beloved (Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Russell Brand) in the title, and we line up unquestioningly to buy . . . whatever it is. Such is the case with the book A Walk with Jane Austen by Lori Smith. Not only does the title of the book promise literary, cultural and travel insights about Britain, but the cover features a lovely bucolic scene of meandering streams and grazing sheep. Just the ticket for getting lost in scenic Britain, right? WRONG!

This is another one of those unfortunate "I-need-to-find-myself-because-I'm-having-such-a-crisis-so-I'll-do-it-in-Britain" memoirs. (See My Love Affair with England.) This book is very, very light on Jane Austen and Britain, and very heavy on the minutia of Lori Smith's problems. Four chapters in, and I'd learned that Ms. Smith had a difficult-to-diagnose illness that left her exhausted, was in her early thirties and not married but desperately looking for a husband, suffered from depression and quit her job "to be a writer." She does throw in the occasional reference from Austen's work to show how it is so relevant to her own personal situation, but I didn't quite follow her logic.

The reader is treated to the scintillating information that Smith sets out to explore Oxford "in my green T-shirt and matching sort-of-coolish walking shoes and almost knee-length jean skirt with the ruffle." At this point, I'm just breathless to see what outfit she chooses next!! Thankfully, we don't have long to wait, because she next appears "wearing my fun pink pleated skirt with the flip-flops that match exactly." Be still my heart!

The book is also largely about the author's spiritual journey. While it might be enjoyable for the reader who wants to read personal stories of that nature, I felt misled in the way the book was presented. Here is one of the lengthy sentences describing the author's spiritual struggles:

"As soon as I confess and receive forgiveness and occasionally feel the depth of that, the cleanness of being right with God, I set off on another pattern of wrong thinking, where I'm the center of my universe, where even when I try to put other people first and love God (and don't always put that much energy into that), I fail miserably and am aware of the fact that seemingly two seconds after I've been irrevocably washed clean, I am dirty again, like filthy rags."

Um, anyone see the "Walking with Jane" part there? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I have to say that I didn't make it past chapter four. She may eventually drop all the rambling and actually attempt to write about Austen's Britain, but I didn't have the patience to find out. It's amazing to me that: a) someone thinks anyone wants to read this self-absorbed drivel, and b) that there is a publisher willing to publish it. (All bloggers are somewhat self-absorbed, I know, but we're generally not charging $13.99 for the privilege of letting others in on it.) I must start writing down what I wear every day and the occasional thought I manage to have -- I might just have a best-seller on my hands!

Since I was unable to finish the book, I'll refrain from giving it any Gherkins. That'll show 'em that we Anglophiles take this bait and switch stuff seriously!


Anonymous said...

I am afraid I have to admit I fell for it too. It still languishes on my book shelf reminding me to be more careful with that Amazon one-click button.

Lisanne624 said...

Wendy, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who fell for it! :) Misery loves company . . .

Anonymous said...

I have to confess I am not a fan of most fiction, even the classics. But there certainly do seem to be a lot of Jane Austen lovers out there because the stuff (films and books) seems to be everywhere. Frankly, I get tired of all the period pieces on Masterpiece Theatre, like the recently shown and poorly acted version of Wuthering Heights. I actually forced myself to watch it so I could say I know the story without needing to sludge through the book! LOL. Tonight they are running the twelfth version of Sense and Sensibility. Ugh. But there you have it...that's just me.I know I stand alone for the most part.
I am, however, a fan of history and historical fiction. But like the Austen craze, the recent spike in interest of the Tudor period is being well taken advantage of at the moment. I can't tell you how many books have been published in the vane of Philippa Gregory, focusing on the Tudor period and more specifically the Boleyn sisters. I think the ShowTime series probably got the ball rolling but now it has gotten out of hand. Most of them are just rehashes of the same story.

Lisanne624 said...

Melissa, I am a big fiction fan, but I must confess that I am puzzled by the appeal of some fiction. Like you, I could never understand all the fuss over Wuthering Heights -- and Rebecca leaves me cold. And you do have to wonder what was wrong with the previous 11 versions of Sense and Sensibility that required the filming of a new version!

LHA said...

Scenic Britain certainly holds an air of mystery and charm. Even to us Brits! Especially when, like me, you live in the States and reminisce about the joys of home! - Limey

Expat mum said...

And what about that huge long run-on sentence. Where was her editor?

Lisanne624 said...

Limey, I'm glad to hear that it's not just us occasional visitors who are intrigued with scenic Britain!

Lisanne624 said...

Expat Mum, you are so right! I was to appalled by the subject matter to even pay much attention to the grammar!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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