All Roads Lead to Austen

by Amy Elizabeth Smith

I read this books weeeeeks ago.  Then, I lost it in the backseat of my car.  So, as it turns out... all roads really do lead to Austen. :)  (Don't worry, I paid the overdue fine at the library.)

"When I'd asked them whether Pride and Prejudice could have taken place in Guatemala, just as it was, with appropriate name changes, the ladies' unanimous answer was yes."

This book is the true story of one English professor from California who set off to Latin America, Spanish versions of Jane Austen's novels in hand.  Amy Elizabeth Smith is a Jane Austen professor, who gives her students unusual term projects to apply their knowledge of Jane to their lives. One year, she decides to take the challenge herself.  She wants to know if the themes and messages in Jane's books carry weight centuries later in a different part of the world.  

Armed with the her high school Spanish from decades past and a five-week long beginner Spanish course, she sets off on a year-long journey through Latin America. She visits cities in Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina. Along the way, she hosts reading groups in different schools, teaches a study abroad program, and meets up with friends of friends.  She meets all sorts of different women and men who react passionately to Austen.  Amy struggles, at times, to express her strong opinions about Jane in her second language.  She worries that she may not be doing Jane justice in the the beginning of her trip; she is unable to explain the nuances of Jane's writing, her style and characters. Throughout her journey, she comes to understand that Jane's characters are timeless - they can be understood and identified with even now, in countries worlds away from England. She meets with women who could connect to themes in Jane's writing, and could feel passionate about their love (or hatred) for Jane's characters.  

I liked this book a lot.  Amy was very open in her recollection of her visits through Latin America.  She didn't hold back about discouraging moments with speaking Spanish, her ability to do Jane justice, and her choice between her versions of Bingley and Darcy.  I thought that it was magical that Jane could translate so well across time and cultures. I mean, I love Austen's works, her characters, her wit and her style.  But I didn't know that so many other people shared my love.  I mean, I know of the JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America), but was totally unaware of JASBA (Jane Austen Society of Buenos Aires).  The world really is a lot smaller than it used to be and love of Jane Austen is just one minute (and really cool) way that people are connected.  

♥ Meg xoxo

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