Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, Kim Izzo

“Doesn’t every girl wish she could find her Mr Darcy?” – Cover

This 2012 book jumped at me from the New Release shelf at Kinokuniya book shop in Sydney (also spotted in Dymocks, Castle Towers, Castle Hill) and I just couldn’t say no. At (AU)$26.99, it’s not necessarily the cheapest read in the world, but it stacks up fairly nicely when it comes to originality, with a title that stands out from the Austen fanfiction crowd.

Our main character, Kate, a freelance journalist, suddenly finds work is getting very tight (something that journalists in Australia are feeling, with Fairfax and News Limited cutting their numbers). Her Grandmother passes away, she is about to be evicted, and she realises she needs to get her finances under control. In pursuit of an article about how girls in the 21st century can bag a rich man, akin to our Elizabeth Bennet, and with the encouragement of her own grief and desperation, Kate decides to do it herself. ISBN: 978-1-444-74283-1

“Let me get this straight. I’m to write about finding a rich husband, at forty, as a guide for women, as though nothing’s changed since Pride and Prejudice was published?” (Kate)

What Kate doesn’t bargain on, is that Jane Austen never said that heroines should marry just for money. And when billionaire, Scott, enters her path she decides that she would be able to convince herself to love him, all the while ignoring her growing feelings for ‘B&B worker’ Griff. As her money troubles get worse, her pursuit of a rich man only continues, leaving us readers squirming and rolling our eyes. She acts, in her own words, as Elizabeth Bennet and Mrs Bennet rolled into one. What follows is an amusing tangle of miscommunication, betrayal, family loyalty, travel (from the US, where Kate lives, to English country manor ‘Penwick’ – think Pemberley – to skiing and Polo), pride, prejudices, and the ultimate realisation of what Jane Austen was truly trying to say.

This book is good fun. Kate meets some over the top characters, and gets a glimpse at both foreclosure parties and penthouse suites. She gains herself the title ‘Lady’ Kate (through a gift from her friends and a sense of humour) and ends up half-naked on the front of a newspaper, as well has completely naked in the bed of both a billionaire and someone trying to be a golddigger (believing her title comes with wealth). I would put this book somewhere between Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada. Look out for the mention of a first edition Pride and Prejudice, and an abundance of men on horseback!

A very predictable ending ensues, but it’s perfectly fitting with Pride and Prejudice.

“Here’s to Kate, who has single-handedly proven that Jane Austen, though long dead, knew a thing or two about snagging a rich husband.” (Fawn)

In fact, some of the gender roles are interestingly reversed e.g. “If you had behaved in a more ladylike manner” comes up at some point. Kate is also a little older than our usual heroines, she’s 41 by the time the book ends. I think this added something to it, and also pointed out that age is regardless when it comes to love, struggles and hope. Despite this, Kate was very difficult to like. As in Emma, she is blinded to many very obvious details, but unlike Pride and Prejudice she doesn’t have the strength of character, nor the manners, to really make proper amends when she is mistaken. She is a little self-obsessed and mistaken about Austen for the vast majority of the book, which is incredibly frustrating. A lot of the situations are also thoroughly ridiculous, or just so unlikely it ruined a storyline that could have otherwise, with a bit of suspended belief, been passable as an accurate retelling of a woman’s real story. She also refuses to accept that there is any other way to suck it up and work her way out of her mess. Get a different job, maybe? For an author who wrote the ‘manners make you sexy’ mantra (The Fabulous Girl’s Guide To Decorum), she could have taught her latest subject a trick or two!

One great thing was the way magazine publishing industry is presented. Unlike many other books and movies etc, it does not glamorize the job. It’s a damn difficult industry, and it made me feel a bit warmer towards Ms Izzo that she presented it that way. Which, it turns out, is because she works in magazines currently. Other than that, I’m going to sit on the fence with this book. Some of it was good, and I read the whole thing straight through, but none of it was great. It’s most definitely a chick-lit read with labels-wine-and-all (Chanel and Pinot Grigio to be exact) but it lacked a depth of character that would have made it shine. There’s a good video on Ms Izzo’s website that explains her thoughts behind the book, as well as her meeting with Colin Firth!

Have you read it? Loved it, hated it, not sure?

“I lay my head on the table, closed my eyes and sighed, thinking of how in the end Elizabeth Bennet married Mr Darcy out of love. The article’s premise wasn’t right. It was a happy coincidence Mr Darcy was rich.” – Too damn right!

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One response to “Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, Kim Izzo

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual, Kim Izzo | Pride and Prejudice for AQA Lit B 1 |

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