How successfully does the world of Jane Austen translate into Spanish? One intrepid author finds out in this travel memoir/literary exploration.
On sabbatical, Austen devotee Smith (Writing and Literature/Univ. of the Pacific) embarked on a project to discuss Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma with reading groups in Latin America. Displaying the good cheer and wry humor befitting an Austenite (as opposed to, say, an Emily Brontë or George Eliot enthusiast), she plunged into Spanish immersion classes in Guatemala, then set off for a romantic fling and the first of several reading adventures in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Smith was happy to discover that Austen’s genteel 19th-century English setting and formal narrative style proved to be relatable to her eager readers: Nearly all of them recognized their own lives in the plots and affirmed that issues of gender, class and familial obligation transcend era and locale. Smith ably captures the lively, often heated, tone of these literary gatherings and delves into the unique characteristics of each country, showcasing an Ecuadorean park teeming with iguanas, a multi-block stretch of Argentinean bookshops, and a tranquil Chilean monastery complete with its own on-site rooster. While the reading-group discussions tend to blur together by the end, Smith remains an engaging narrator throughout. A reader would need to possess either a truly cold heart or a pathological aversion to Austen to begrudge her the swoon-worthy happy ending to her tale.
A delightful romp that should appeal to those who appreciate the savvier realms of chick lit.