19 April 2012
Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo
It's in the midst of the recession when Kate, a freelance journalist and self-professed Jane Austen addict, finds herself single, unemployed and soon-to-be homeless (not to mention about to turn 40).
In desperation she accepts a writing assignment to prove a theory that in the toughest economic times a wealthy man is the only must-have accessory. So, with just Jane Austen's advice for company, she sets off to see if Mr Rich can ever become Mr Right.
Her mission takes her to Palm Beach, St Moritz and London. Where, in keeping company with the elite, she meets billionaires, oil tycoons, and generally men who make Mr Darcy look like an amateur. But will rubbing shoulders with men of good fortune ever actually lead her to love?"
Kim Izzo's debut novel is one I've been looking forward to for a while. The idea of the story sounded great, and I really liked the cover when it was debuted online. In real life, it's far pinker and prettier, and certainly looks like a book I would really enjoy. I've read a few Jane Austen novels, and really enjoyed them, and have also read a few modern retellings of the stories, so I was curious to see where this would fit into those sort of novels, and if you actually had to like Austen to read this book at all! As it turned out, you don't need to have read an Austen novel to keep up with this, and I'd go so far as to say you don't even have to like Austen that much to read and even enjoy this. Sadly, it didn't really work well for me, and although I enjoyed parts of it.
The book is the story of American Kate, a journalist who adores the novels of Jane Austen. She's been unlucky in love so far, and lives in a house with her grandmother who virtually raised her, and mother who is keener on gambling than she is on her family. When Kate loses her job, she embarks of a rather strange adventure (of sorts) - to write an article to show how to get a wealthy man like the heroines of her favourite Austen novels. Kate ends up travelling the world on the last few dollars she has left, but is she going to find the man of her dreams and the happiness she desperately craves? Or is it going to be a big disappointment if she finds out that a rich man doesn't automatically mean her dreams will come true...
My first big problem about this book was Kate's whole philosophy of finding a rich man simply to help pay for her mother's debts and sort out her life as she had no job and therefore no money. She seem quite cold and calculated in bagging a rich man, one she didn't even necessarily have an attraction to in order to fulfill her need to get a rich husband. It sat rather uncomfortably with me, even though it perhaps wasn't meant to be taken 100% seriously, I just couldn't make sense of what she was doing in my head and it felt a bit awkward to read because I didn't like the way it was going. Kate started off being quite likeable, and I felt quite sorry for her with the storyline regarding her mother and grandmother, but as it progressed, I found myself disliking her more.
I enjoyed the travel aspect of the book as Kate travelled the world on her savings, and with some new friends that she meets along the way. It was nice to read of the glamourous locations, from the ski slopes to the polo club, and some of the characters that appear there were good and made for interesting storylines. However, I could see by about halfway through who Kate was going to end up with, and I wish it had got there sooner because it could have saved a lot of story with these unsuitable men that Kate forces herself to be with. I like the Izzo has brought up the story of a woman not wanting children, something which weirdly seems to be quite taboo these days, and it was nice that Kate was a strong, independent woman - well at the start anyway.
Overall, this book was an okay read but I have to confess that it did leave me disappointed as I turned the final page. There wasn't as much about Austen as I had expected given the title, just a few references by Kate here and there and of course the story that Kate is writing an article based on what the women in Austen's books used to do, but that was it really. I just didn't like the way Kate went about it, and I think that is what left a sour taste in my mouth because the writing was really good, the book was very readable but just something about it just didn't jump out at me as I had hoped. Perhaps it's just me taking it too seriously, I don't know but The Jane Austen Marriage Manual wasn't the read I was expecting it to be.
You can buy The Jane Austen Marriage Manual as a paperback or an eBook now.