Non-Fiction Christian Book Reviews

Jane Austen Guide to Life Yields Good Advice

<i>Jane Austen Guide to Life</i> Yields Good Advice

Author: Lori Smith
Title: The Jane Austen Guide to Life
Publisher: skirt!

What woman hasn’t wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet, the fearless heroine in Pride and Prejudice who won the affections of the mysterious, handsome and wealthy Mr. Darcy? Jane Austen didn’t just create fairytales; she imagined worlds just within reach—tales of wealth, power, and most of all, true love. While Austen’s stories, and Austen herself, lived in the 18th century, the truths hidden between the pages of her novels hold eternal lessons every woman can learn from.

Author Lori Smith, a Jane Austen enthusiast and a member of the Jane Austen Society of America, undertook the intriguing task of tapping into Austen’s work and mind to cull the best morsels of guidance that remind us what a gift the classic writer gave us in her six novels.

Austen herself was a bit of a renegade, fearlessly writing and even daring to publish her work at a time when women didn’t work outside the home, much less author fiction. With The Jane Austen Guide to Life, Smith provides a behind-the-scenes look into the life and intellect of Austen—a peek into her home life, her social standing and her career as a promising young author, blazing a trail for female writers. By digging into Austen’s psyche, readers will begin to understand why she is one of the most intelligent authors of all time.

In a world filled with loose morals, online dating and reality TV, Smith brings Austen into our world to help us understand what she would say about our current state of affairs. “She would likely be the kind of shopper who favored Target over Neiman Marcus,” Smith says of Austen. Suddenly, Austen isn’t just a well-respected writer of witty, passionate prose; she’s a friend we can call to gush about the latest sale or a cute pair of shoes. We can trust her. Smith provides a glimpse into her heart. She explores every aspect of our lives through Austen’s eyes—dating, marriage, friendship, heartbreak, achieving our dreams and money, among other sensible topics—leaving the reader clinging to every nugget of truth.

A quick read, every chapter has an overarching theme where Smith lists important words of advice straight from Austen to today’s modern woman. Gems like: Do the unexpected; do what you would be willing to be poor for; when the right thing hurts, do it anyway; be open to changing your mind; don’t ever think you’re too old for love; don’t get too caught up in the idea of “the one”; cultivate the ability to take and give correction; don’t be afraid of a small life; choose substance over celebrity; be thankful that you can choose to be single; cherish your true friends; cultivate gratitude.

This book may be short, but it’s brimming with charming philosophy, poignant words of advice and witty guidance from an old friend. Smith speaks sister-to-sister, and it’s her enchanting way of communicating that makes her a trusted companion, alongside Austen. She draws examples from Austen’s life—one of solitude and substance. Although the beloved author was masterful at writing classic love stories, she never married. And while she became one of England's greatest novelists, her books didn’t provide a substantial living for her while she was alive, keeping her identity a secret until her brother accidentally revealed it was indeed his sister who was writing these captivating narratives. While Austen placed high esteem on morality and living life in the context of propriety, Smith also notes more than once that Austen’s decision-making was guided by her Christian faith.

Moreover, Smith pulls examples from Austen’s enduring heroines—strong, brave, women of substance who always marry for love. If Austen lived in our day, Smith tells us that while she would think our senseless, frivolous ideals of love are ridiculous, Austen would prize purpose and integrity above all else. Smith says, “Jane would tell us above all things to be sensible, wise, humble, and brave—and to follow our hearts.”