Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual

By Becky Gulc

The idea behind "The Jane Austen Marriage Manual" is one Kim Izzo developed when she was approaching her 40th birthday. Kim realised her life wasn’t how she expected it to be at this milestone, her family home was taken away due to financial difficulties, she was in an unstable job and in an unhappy relationship. A joke to her friends about how she wished she’d just married a wealthy man when she was younger, like many a Jane Austen heroine, led Kim to wonder whether it was too late for this. Hence a fantastic premise for a novel, how old is too old to marry well?

Kate Shaw is the main character in the novel, a single woman who finds herself in a similar predicament to Kim. Kate is a freelance journalist and assigned to find out if Austen’s rules can still apply to modern women. With freelance work drying up and her latest ‘home’ consisting of her sister’s sofa, this is one assignment Kate really needs to pay off for her...big time.

Kate throws herself into the assignment and the challenge sees this American woman travel to various countries in search of a rich beau. Kate adopts the title of ‘Lady’ Kate (her friends actually buy her a title for her birthday) and she puts this to full and often hilarious use. Kate follows one prospective suitor in particular, the only problem is his much younger beautiful girlfriend is always by his side. However, Kate is determined to make him fall for her. It’s not all about this guy though; there are plenty of other prospective love interests thrown into the mix (including financial interests, objects of lust and the obligatory man she can’t stand who pops up everywhere).

I enjoyed this book and thought there were a great range of characters involved, with the more down-to-earth ones balancing out the sometimes dislikeable pompous ones. Kate is a character I easily warmed to and she comes across as very likeable in the beginning, but as it develops she becomes more and more obsessed about finding this rich man, even putting her relationships with her family and friends in jeopardy and wasting what little money she has on travel. I wanted to shake Kate at times and she seemed quite flippant (one minute she was lusting over one man, the next another) but I think that added to my enjoyment because it kept me intrigued and wanting her to make a sensible decision!
This was an amusing book at times, particularly regarding how Kate tried to fit in at polo matches but didn’t have a clue. You kind of guess where it’s going in pure Jane Austen style, but again that didn’t bother me, I was pleased with the ending. Overall this was an enjoyable read, you might not always agree with what Kate is doing, but there are plenty of funny moments to carry the reader’s interest through.

(Top left, US cover; Bottom right, UK cover)

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