“In some ways, this trip is about sorting out the possibilities of my life, working and dreaming to ensure that I will still somehow be significant.” Lori Smith writes these personal words in her captivating memoir A Walk with Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love, and Faith. Taking a break from the disappointments in her career and romantic life, Smith pursues her dream to trace Jane Austen's history throughout England. In the process of discovering Austen, Smith allows the reader to follow intimately her own journey of self-discovery, search for significance, and, ultimately, a greater realization of God's goodness and grace.
A Walk with Jane Austen takes the reader throughout England, including the colleges in Oxford, a monastery in Hampshire, friends in London, as well as inns in Lyme and Bath. And while there is a great deal of history about Austen and her family, the writing stays entirely fresh with the many personal anecdotes by Smith. Smith's faith is marked by profound thoughts, and her discussion of Austen's faith is both interesting and inspirational.
The love story aspect of Smith's tour is wonderfully engaging, and the rarity of such intelligent and poetic writing makes reading this book pleasurable. In her memoir, Smith describes herself as thoughtful, passionate about faith, but uncomfortable with much of evangelical Christianity. Her candor and humor about the human failings of Christians, herself included, are extremely refreshing. And, whereas some might be offended by her criticisms of the church-at-large, others will appreciate her desire to have a strong intellectual aspect to her faith. Her sometimes-biting wit is used when describing the modern Christian woman's struggle to date within the church and her own fading hopes of finding a man who passionately loves God, loves her, and is not weird. As a Christian with Anglican leanings, she seems to extend grace easily to others, while struggling to find grace for herself.
Not for the ultra-conservatives, A Walk with Jane Austen could appeal to a variety of women in the 18-40 age range. Single women may especially appreciate the dating anecdotes, but the overall themes and humor in the book will be universally appealing. And don't shy away simply because your completed checklist of Austen classics is wanting. I've read only the famous Pride and Prejudice, though now I have the desire to read all the rest. Anyone who has seen movie adaptations of her books would do just as well reading Smith's memoir. Because of Smith's objective perspective toward her faith and her skillful avoidance of Christianese vocabulary, this could be a great reading experience for non-Christians as well as Christians. I would recommend this to anyone who is remotely interested in Jane Austen, or to those who simply are hungry for an interesting and well-written memoir. -- Stacie Miller, Christian Book Previews.com
At thirty-three, dealing with a difficult job and a creeping depression, Lori Smith embarked on a life-changing journey following the life and lore of Jane Austen through England.
With humor and spirit, Lori leads readers through landscapes Jane knew and loved–from Bath and Lyme, to London and the Hampshire countryside–and through emotional landscapes in which grace and hope take the place of stagnation and despair. Along the way, Lori explores the small things, both meanness and goodness in relationships, to discover what Austen herself knew: the worth of an ordinary life.