Lori Smith’s book, A Walk With Jane Austen: A Journey into Adventure, Love & Faith is available for purchase today. I have been savoring this book all summer, and reluctantly read the last pages last night while sitting in my favorite spot at a local restaurant. After reading such a personal account, it is easy to assume that one has met Lori and had a long conversation with her.
Part 3 of the book begins with a visit to beautiful Winchester Cathedral, where Jane is buried, and a description of her last illness. Lori addresses the topic of death head on with trepidation, fearlessness, and faith.
To my surprise, she disliked Lyme, which I have always wanted to visit, but attributed much of her terrible experience to her seedy hotel. She then visited Exeter, Sense and Sensibility country, and Lyme Park, Colin Firth’s Pemberley. Few signs remain that the movie was filmed there ten years before, although once upon a time visitors could take a little tour showing the significant spots in the movie.
I must confess I liked part three of the book most, for Lori recounts so much of Jane’s life and her novels in these final pages. During her visit to Chatworth, the lush mansion where Matthew Macfadyen snogs Keira Knightly, as Lori so delightfully puts it, she views a set of breathtaking china that belonged to Warren Hastings, a widower who sent his young son to live with Jane’s family in Steventon, and where the boy sadly died. Lori then recounts the story of Philadelphia Austen, Jane’s intrepid aunt, who went to India to find a husband in Tysoe Hancock, and who gave birth to Elizabeth, Jane’s niece. The story is complicated as Lori describes it, but is well worth investigating on one’s own.
After visiting Stoneleigh Abbey, the mansion belonging to Jane’s mother’s family, Lori goes full circle, returning to Oxford to spend her final days in England before returning home. Back in America she ties up a few loose ends, which I will not reveal, except to say that I loved this book. In fact, I suspect if Jane Austen were able to read it, she would give it her seal of approval. I’ll end my series of reviews of Lori Smith’s book with her own words:
And this is the paradox, because this life – this loving your family and friends and doing good work and telling good stories – may feel small, but it is far from ordinary.
It is the best life, the extraordinary life.
It was Jane’s, and I hope it will be mine.
Image from A Walk Round Winchester Cathedral
Click here to read all my reviews of this book.