Friday, September 6, 2013

Traveling with Jane

I love travel. It makes me nervous and anxious, but then you get someplace new and get to be lost, deliciously lost. Now I don’t mean directionally, though that often happens. There’s just something lovely about not knowing a place, being new, and trying different things. All of a sudden I become outgoing and ready to try anything, I’ll talk to strangers (yes mother I disobeyed that age old rule), go out on my own, and have an unrestrained good time. What is usually frightening in my everyday life becomes part of the adventure. Amy Elizabeth Smith’s book All Roads Lead to Austen was a reminder of the thrills of travel, but with a twist.

Smith set off to spend a year in six Latin American countries (Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina). Her quest? To see how Jane Austen’s characters, writing, and stories translated to the natives of said cultures. Her findings? Love, friendship, bookstores, discussion, and a fabulous story.

I adored this story. I wanted to jet off to South America and stay for a year just like Smith. This was mainly what I loved about the story, Amy’s life in Spanish and her struggles and triumphs making friends and living in another country. She was easy to read and I enjoyed reading about the people she met and the book clubs she formed. In each country, Smith put together a small book club to read either Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, or Emma. One of the traits she wanted to see was whether her Latin American friends would think of Austen’s books in terms of their own lives and experiences. Would they identify with characters the way Austen cults in the US do? Could they see these stories happening in their country? It was fascinating to read about the different perspectives and topics each group brought to the floor. I found the later chapters’ discussions of the books more fulfilling than early chapters.

Travel fiction and Jane Austen make me quite content. Smith’s writing was comfortable and welcoming. I easily seeped into the pages and was lost in the story of one woman bringing her assumptions and trepidation to six other cultures while also bringing those cultures a beloved part of her own world.

Give this a read if you are a fan of Jane Austen and travel nonfiction. If you aren't familiar with the three Austen works listed above, you may be a little lost, nothing a sit down with the movies can’t cure, however!

Here are some read alikes for All Roads Lead to Austen:
  • A Jane Austen Education: How six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter by William Deresiewicz
  • Have Mother Will Travel by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine
  • A Walk with Jane Austen: a journey into adventure, love, and faith by Lori Smith

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