The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, by Lori Smith – A Review

The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith (2012)If you could be swept back in time two hundred years ago to have a cup of tea with Jane Austen, what would you ask her? Any question. No bars held. If I had the courage, I might ask her how did she become so wise in the ways of human nature and love? Or, did she intend to craft stories to entertain, or to enlighten?

Since time-travel has yet to be invented, we can only surmise how Austen would have replied. Yet, for centuries she has been speaking to readers in an intimate way without many of us realizing it. In The Jane Austen Guide to Life, author Lori Smith decodes Austen’s philosophy on life and love by combing through her novels and personal correspondence for lessons relevant for the modern woman. Is Jane Austen the relationship coach that we should all be learning from? Smith thinks so and has carefully selected key topics that we can contemplate and learn from such as: Living Your Dreams; Pursuing Passion; Marrying Well; Cherishing Family and Friends; Enduring the Hardest Things; and the final chapter Austen’s Ethos. You might say this is a self-help book applying the principals and morals that Austen used in writing her fictional characters translated into the nonfiction world. In the introduction, Smith sums it up very nicely…

“This book mines Jane’s life and her stories for the lessons she would teach us if she could. Thankfully, through her writing, she can and does speak today.” p. xi

I never feel more like Lydia Bennet when someone recommends a self-help book to me. Remember in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins reads from Fordyce’s Sermons and she gaped in horror? I can totally relate. I deplore being preached to and am quite the skeptic. Even though I opened this book with grave trepidation, I was soon won over by the author’s knowledge of Jane Austen and her upbeat, approachable style. Each chapter is well researched offering topics and examples from the novels that modern readers can relate to. My favorite chapter was the last: Austen’s Ethos.

“As I’ve written about Austen, several themes continue to come back to me. They’ve surfaced throughout the book, but, at the risk of redundancy, may bear repeating, because in so many ways I think they capture her heart. They were lessons her heroines knew, or came to know through the course of the stories, and may in fact be the central, overarching lessons that she would want to pass on to us today. They’re also lessons that, because of two centuries that separate us from Austen, we may be less likely to take away from her light stories.” p. 197

I will leave you dangling in suspense with that tempting nugget of knowledge yet to be revealed. After reading The Jane Austen Guide to Life I understand more fully why I have been so attracted to Austen’s writing since first reading Pride and Prejudice over thirty years ago. I had the privilege of reading an early advance copy and wholeheartedly can attest that this engaging book, part biography and part self-help guide, it is all heart. Janeites will embrace its common sense and insights into their favorite author, and everyone else should buy it for their daughters and best friends.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, by Lori Smith
Globe Pequot Press (2012)
Hardcover (224) pages
ISBN: 978-0762773817

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winners announced for The Jane Austen Guide to Life

The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith (2012)41 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win one of three copies available of The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith. The winners drawn at random are:

  • drealuddy who left a comment on May 01, 2012
  • MelissaG who left a comment on May 02, 2012
  • Kelli H. who left a comment on May 05, 2012

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by May 16, 2012. Shipment to US addresses only. Enjoy!

A big thank you to author Lori Smith for her great guest blog, and to her publisher Globe Pequot Press for offering the giveaway copies. Congrats to the winners. Enjoy!

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

The Jane Austen Guide to Life blog tour with author Lori Smith & giveaway!

The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith (2012)Happy May Day everyone! Please join us today in welcoming author Lori Smith on the launch of her blog tour in celebration of the publication of The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman, released today by Globe Pequot Press. Lori has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her second Jane Austen-inspired book and offered a giveaway to three lucky readers.

I’m thrilled I was able to write The Jane Austen Guide to Life, but I can’t fully take credit for the idea.  A while back, an email unexpectedly popped up from an editor I hadn’t heard from in a while, one I’d always wanted to work with.  She’d been thinking, she said, about a book that would combine a light biography of Jane Austen with practical “life lessons” for the modern reader, drawn from Austen’s life as well as her books.  I thought for about fifteen seconds and concluded, “Yes!  That book should be written!”  And that was the beginning.

As normal as it seems to me to take advice from Austen—I’ve loved her writing for years, even followed her life through England for my last project, A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith (2007), —I thought it might seem strange to some.  After all, Austen was a 19th-century spinster.  She wasn’t terribly concerned about fashion, knew nothing about platform heels, and, if she’d had the chance, she very well might have married a first cousin (as was common practice back then).  So what could she possibly teach our modern selves?

In some ways, Austen was more modern than we might think.  She embraced the 21st-century idea of making your dreams a reality.  After all, in her day, a lady should not have written fiction.  Not only was writing un-ladylike, but novels were frivolous and of questionable value.  But Austen had to tell her stories—she had to write—so, acceptable or not, that’s what she did.

In other ways, Austen challenges us, her own good sense in contrast to current cultural extremes.  Many of us strive for our fifteen minutes of fame, while Austen didn’t even want her name to appear on her books.  As a nation, we’re saddled with pervasive credit card debt; Austen lived within a tight and carefully kept budget.  She would encourage us to cherish our true friends rather than focusing on building extensive and ephemeral social networks.  And Jane Austen never had sex—so what would she say about a culture that has a word specifically to describe meaningless sexual encounters.  (Hookup, anyone?) Continue reading

My Number 1 Top 10 Jane Austen Inspired Holiday Gift for 2008 is..

Santa Darcy IconGIFT
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Jane Austen’s England 2009 Calendar

 Jane Austen's England 2009 Calendar - AustenPress

Featuring more than 80 beautiful and inspiring photographs of Jane Austen’s England taken by author Lori Smith during her journey while she researched her book A Walk with Jane Austen. She covered every significant place that touched Jane Austen’s life including… 

  • St. Nicholas Church in Steventon
  • Chawton Cottage where Jane wrote or edited all the books
  • Chawton House, her brother Edward’s estate
  • Mrs. Austen & Cassandra’s graves
  • Stoneleigh Abbey, Mrs. Austen’s family’s ancestral home, which resembles Northanger Abbey
  • Views from the top of Box Hill, where Emma’s picnic takes place
  • No. 8 College Street in Winchester, where Jane died
  • Jane’s grave in Winchester Cathedral
  • Godmersham Park, Edward’s estate in Kent
  • Roman Baths and the Royal Circus in Bath
  • Assembly Rooms building in Bath
  • Bath Abbey
  • St. John’s College in Oxford where George, James and Henry studied
  • Granny’s Teeth steps from Persuasion, the Cobb and beach at Lyme Regis
  • Lyme Park, which served as Pemberley in the 1995 BBC version of Pride & Prejudice
  • Chatsworth House, which served as Pemberley in the 2005 Focus Features version of Pride & Prejudice

Also included are significant dates in Jane Austen’s, her families and characters lives for you to follow along and remember during the year. The calendar is printed on lovely cover stock in a stunning 10.4 x 13 inch size (20.8 x 26 when open) and available online through AustenPress at $21.99. Quantites are limited, so do not hesitate to order today to guarantee that you will be well informed and in touch with Jane Austen’s England in 2009.

Extant pleasure

Illustration by Warren Chappell, Persuasion, 1950EXTANT   

Her pleasure (Anne Elliot) in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling. The Narrator on Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 10

Jane Austen’s poetic description of the waining season parallels Anne Elliot’s own reflections of her extant hope of a renewed romance with Captain Wentworth. After eight years he has returned into her life, but his interests are for a younger lady. This realization leaves her numb and introspective, acutely aware of her surroundings as she walks out into the country.

In many of Jane Austen’s novels we find that a walk by characters reveals through intimate conversation, or silent reflection a transition in the characters lives. A new detail is disclosed that takes the plot in a new direction. And so it is with Anne Elliot. She has begun an inner journey of reflection and discovery. We travel with her, patiently following.

Take the first step of self discovery with fellow Janeite and author Lori Smith with her fresh and enlightening new book A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith, available at barnesandnoble.com