Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All Roads Lead to Austen - Amy Elizabeth Smith

When I first looked at the cover of this book I thought it was a work of fiction and was unaware it was Amy Smith’s autobiographical account of the journey she made within Latin America during a sabbatical year from teaching. Imagine my surprise when upon closer inspection I realised not only was this the story of a woman’s literary and cultural journey with her companion, Jane Austen, but, it was also a travel log of that year.

Three of my most enjoyable reading pursuits are tagging along on well observed and culturally sensitive travel adventures, listening to authentic autobiographical tales and delving into classical literature. As I turned the front cover of All Roads Lead to Austen, my excitement grew and during the rest of the time I rummaged inside those pages, I was not disappointed.

Amy Smith sets off across Latin America to find out if the works of Jane Austen’s will successfully cross borders, cultures, language and time and have any relevance in today’s world. She visits six countries offering Spanish translations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma to various reading groups and soon she discovers the answer. Some things surprise her and some do not, but always, the conversations and discussions she has with members of those groups are handled with sensitivity and a willingness to listen rather than teach. By reading the works of local authors at each port of call, she learns about the varied history and perspectives of people living in the countries she visits, which all adds to her understanding of the culture she finds herself with.

All Roads Lead to Austen provides the reader with clear, colourful and an insightful perspective of life, love, friendship and self discovery, enabled through the love of travel and reading. It is likely to be particularly appealing to lovers of Austen and can stand alone as an excellent travel journal. It is easy to recommend this book for all of the above reasons and most of all because Amy Smith managed to use this opportunity to live and learn and has the talent to tell the story well.

This book will be published on June 1st by Sourcebooks.