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Book review: 'Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas' answers modern dilemmas

By Rosemarie Howard

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 29 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

"MISS JANE AUSTEN'S GUIDE TO MODERN LIFE'S DILEMMAS: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to Wear) from the Great Novelist Herself," by Rebecca Smith, Tarcher/Penguin, $16.95, 223 pages (nf)

Jane Austen’s fifth-great grandniece, Rebecca Smith, has compiled a guide that offers entertaining and practical advice that Austen fans will particularly appreciate.

Written in the style of an advice columnist, “Miss Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to Wear) from the Great Novelist Herself” is divided into chapters addressing topics that include: “Love and Relationships,” “Friends and Family,” “Work and Career,” “Fashion and Style,” “Home and Garden” and Leisure and Travel.”

Within each chapter, questions addressed range from “Should I wear heels or flats?” and “What can I do to control my shopping binges?” to “How can I delete a contact on Facebook without causing offense?” and “What should I be looking for in a man?”

“Hundreds of dilemmas were suggested by family, friends and my students,” writes Smith. “There were too many to fit into the book. … I was actually quite surprised that I could answer every single dilemma with advice from Jane’s works and letters!”

Answers to the dilemmas are provided by Smith citing and interpreting the experiences of characters from Austen’s novels, including “Emma,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice.” Direct quotations from Austen’s characters relevant to each dilemma are highlighted in sidebars.

Advice dispensed by Austen via Smith includes observations and experiences from Austen’s own life found in her personal letters and unpublished writings.

The volume includes a brief biography of Jane Austen, character summaries of the main characters in Austen’s books, a bibliography and an index.

Written with the reserve of Austen's style and century, the book contains no offensive language, violence or explicit material.

The author is currently a teaching fellow in English and creative writing at the University of Southampton. She was the first writer in residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, England.

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.

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