Saturday, July 14, 2012

All Roads Lead to Austen by Amy Elizabeth Smith

4 Star

With a suitcase full of Jane Austen novels en español, Amy Elizabeth Smith set off on a yearlong Latin American adventure: a traveling book club with Jane. In six unique, unforgettable countries, she gathered book-loving new friends— taxi drivers and teachers, poets and politicians— to read Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.

Whether sharing rooster beer with Guatemalans, joining the crowd at a Mexican boxing match, feeding a horde of tame iguanas with Ecuadorean children, or tangling with argumentative booksellers in Argentina, Amy came to learn what Austen knew all along: that we're not always speaking the same language— even when we're speaking the same language.

But with true Austen instinct, she could recognize when, unexpectedly, she'd found her own Señor Darcy.

All Roads Lead to Austen celebrates the best of what we love about books and revels in the pleasure of sharing a good book— with good friends.

Kaley - 4 Star

I consider myself a Jane Austen fan (I don’t think it matters that I have yet to read Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park) so when I got the chance to read All Roads lead to Austen, A Year Long Journey With Jane by Amy Elizabeth Smith I was really excited. Happily, this book did not let me down!

I found that I was really interested in Smith’s life and wanted to find out how this yearlong trip changed her personally as well as academically. To me, a great travel memoir mixes fiction and research or travel commentary equally. I want to hear all about the exotic locations but I also want to know what’s going through the writer’s mind and all the personal issues they deal with too. I also like it when it reads like a story instead of a textbook. All that being said, I thought this book is a great example of a good travel memoir. I have never been to any countries in Latin America, and likely never will, so it was awesome to read about Smith’s adventures. She not only described the scenery but the culture and how she struggled with some things while she was abroad (including dengue fever – ugh! – and different Spanish dialects).  As a side note, I’ve also decided I want a tame iguana. I think he would be quite at home in Canada!

I thought Smith came up with such an awesome and unique research project. I love the idea of taking something that’s so familiar in your own culture, and something (or someone, in the case of Austen) that has such a mass following all over the world, and seeing what others think of it. I loved seeing what Smith found out about how Austen translates – literally and culturally. Can you imagine reading the first line of Pride and Prejudice in another language? I think it would be quite strange (PS the first line is: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”). Smith learned that other cultures do take something slightly different away from Austen but there were still some similarities, such as immediately comparing Austen’s characters to people in their own lives.

All Roads Lead to Austen has encouraged me to not only get around to reading those last two Austen novels but to also check out more travel literature. This is an interesting read for any Austen or travel fan!

Thank you to Sourcebooks for our review copy!

Connect with Amy Elizabeth Smith here:

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