The Dashwood Sisters Tell All: A Modern Day Novel of Jane Austen by Beth Pattillo
So when I saw that this was by Beth Pattillo, I was like…
For those of you who don’t know, my review of Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart did not go well…
I did not like that book at all. I thought it was absolutely horrible, a complete waste of my time. (If you want to read it, follow this link). So needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be reading another one of her books.
But did I hate this book? Keep reading to find out!
Ellen (Elinor) and Mimi (Marianne) Douglas (Dashwood) have never been close or gotten along with each other. Ellen is the no-nonsense, sensible, wears comfortable clothes sister:
Mimi on the other hand is the dreamer, outgoing, friendly, doesn’t always think things through, and a fashionista.
The book is split between the two as narrators and I have to say that I really enjoyed seeing into both sisters heads.
So the sisters are going on a walking tour of Hampshire, England to follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen.
I know awesome sounding right? Well not for these two as not only do they not get along, they also don’t really like Jane Austen.
Their mother recently died from cancer and her will stated that they had to go on the tour together and release her ashes in “the most appropriate place” or else they get nothing.
The girls agree for sentiment and inheritance.
So of course Ellen the “sensible one” brought the right clothing and shoes for their hike, making sure she packed simply and lightly. Mimi on the other hand is a regular clotheshorse and not only has too much to carry but didn’t bring the right things for the hike, looking good but not dressing appropriately.
They arrive at the hotel they will be staying at and meet the tall, good-looking, fifty-something, retired air force pilot, Tom Braddock (Colonel Brandon).
After he retired from the air force, he moved to England and does Austen tours as a sideline business.
Mimi really came on the tour for money more than sentiment. She knows that Ellen and her have a very slim chance of bonding and she really needs the money to achieve her dream; having a boutique in New York. Tom seems very nice, returning her left behind bag, but too old and serious. Besides Mimi can’t be focusing on guys, she needs to keep her eyes on the prize.
So as Ellen unpacks, she pulls out a package that was sent to her by her mother. The lawyer told her that she had to bring it on the trip and she and Mimi have the task of “deciding what to do with it” after arriving in England.
Ellen decides to get some fresh air when she runs into the person she least expects, her old crush from college, Daniel. Nothing ever happened as he had a fiancé and Ellen wasn’t the type of girl to try and break something like that up. Now however, Daniel is a antique dealer, and a single one at that.
Ellen tells Daniel why she is in “Jane Austen land”, even though she is not a fan of the books. Daniel reveals that her mom actually arranged for him to come too. Ellen decides to open the package and discovers a book. And not just any book:
Private Property of Miss Cassandra Austen.
Do Not Read.
This Means You, Jane.
So Mimi arrives early to the meet and greet the other walkers, and finds out who she will be spending the next days with. There is a couple from Nashville, a couple from Nebraska, a television producer from New York, Karen; a retired lawyer from L.A., Charlotte; a few others but most importantly the gorgeous and richly dressed, British, Ethan Blackmore (Willoughby).
Mimi is excited and hoping to bag the guy, her own Austen-esque hero.
Daniel wants to take a closer look at the diary, but Ellen stops him. She wants to wait and of course talk to Mimi about it.
She hurriedly gets ready and runs down, looking for Mimi who tells her about Ethan. Before Ellen can meet him, they are interrupted by Mrs. Parrot, the lecturer on the tour. She asks them a lot of questions, and the already paranoid Ellen starts wondering of she knows about the diary they own.
Mimi tries to throw Daniel and Ellen together, but Ellen doesn’t want to think on that, thwarting her plans.
After dinner, Ellen tells Mimi about the book and her fears that Mrs. Parrot knows about it all.
The two start reading the diary:
The first part of the diary is Cassandra warning Jane about showing her feelings. Cassandra is very much like Elinor/Ellen and Jane sounds like Marianne/Mimi. Cassandra hopes to marry Tom Fowle and worries over Jane’s crush on Jack (who he is I don’t know.)
The next day is the beginning of the hike, and after Ellen hides the book she joins the others. Ellen is thrilled yet uneasy seeing Daniel after all these years. It turns out that her old feelings are resurfacing.
They spend the hike talking about their lives, death of relationships, and Daniel’s two kids.
Mimi in the other hand is trying as hard as she can to keep up with Ethan. It doesn’t help that she is wearing the wrong shoes and her feet are killing her.
They talk with Mimi sharing, but Ethan revealing very little about him. *Warning Sign!*
Back away Mimi, far away!
As the reach the church on their hike, Mimi stops to rest and demeans herself. Why didn’t she take the time to break in her boots. Why didn’t she take the time to see her mom? Because she was afraid.
Tom comes to see her and check on her and the two have a lovely conversation.
Stay Mimi, stay!
She also discovers from Tom that their is a huge market for Jane Austen memorabilia (no duh) and LOTS of money can be made.
Mimi thinks this is great as selling the diary will help her achieve her dreams.
As Mimi continues walking with Ethan he points out his house. House to him, but “mansion” to us in the states. Mimi is floored by it. Ethan invites her over for a “private tour” and Mimi accepts.
No Mimi, no!
That night when they stop at a pub to eat, Tom comes over to Ellen to talk to her about Mimi. He is worried about her feet, as she is going to have some serious problems with them. Tom also warns Ellen that Ethan is no good, she better watch her sister.
They spend the time talking with Ellen telling Tom about why they are on the tour and her mother’s attempt at matchmaking from the grave. Tom encourages her to not be afraid and try with Daniel if she still has feelings for him.
Afterwards the sisters have a real heart to heart. Ellen shares her frustrations at having to care for mom on her own, while Mimi shares her fears to come and see her. Then they talk about Daniel and Ethan.
“Maybe we are more alike than we think,” Mimi said.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re afraid to show your feelings to the man you love, and I’m afraid of what will happen if I can’t hide mine.”
Ellen talks to Mrs. Parrot at their next stop and asks questions about the Austen sisters. She also finds out that there are rumors of Cassandra’s and Jane’s diaries, but no truth in whether they actually exist. It is something that many people have been after to discover.
Later, Ellen goes to get a drink sand overhears Mrs. Parrot talking to someone about her. Creepy!
Before she can hear any more, Mimi comes up and announces her presence.
After a dinner of flirting by Ethan (gag) Mimi joins him to visit his house. He mentions his Austen heirlooms, and Mimi shares that she has Cassandra’s diary.
No Mimi Why! Why! Why would you do that? You don’t know anything about this guy! How can you trust him with such a secret?
Ethan isn’t that “interested” in the diary, yeah right, and they continue looking at the house. They spend the rest of the night “kissing”…
Ellen meanwhile spends a restless night worried about Mimi, Daniel, and Mrs. Parrot. She decides to read more:
Cassandra talks more about how she wishes Jane would listen and know that Jack Smith is no good. She has tried to get her father to send Jane away, but he won’t. She decides that she will have to do something. Also the words along, the, narrow, way, it, goes are all underlined.
The next morning, Mimi does not come down for breakfast. Ethan does and talks to Ellen sharing that Mimi has told him everything, including her dreams for a store. Ellen has no idea that Mimi shared the information with Ethan, and lets him know that their mother in no heiress and Mimi will receive only a small pittance.
Later when Mimi is hiking with Ethan he acts cool toward her, confusing her. Later Ellen gives her a talking to and the two fight over whether it is all Mimi or a consensual interest.
Afterwards, Ellen spends some more time with Daniel.
Mimi is fed up with Ellen’s moods and the way Ethan switches frim hot to cold. So she ends up spending her time with Tom.
They have a fun chat with Tom telling her all kinds of stories about his military life. And Tom kisses her!
But Mimi tells him she just wants to be friends.
That night Ellen has plans to picnic with Daniel. In truely awesome sister mode, Mimi gives Ellen a slight makeover, enhancing her beauty.
They spend the whole time talking, sharing feelings, and kissing.
That night Mimi and Ellen meet up. Mimi wants to talk about Ellen’s date, but Ellen reads more of the diary.
Cassandra goes on how Jack and Tom Lefroy are both a bad idea but Jane won’t listen to her. Then she talks about the new fashion of fruit on the bonnets, and the death of her fiancé. The words underlined in this passage are couples, crowded, to dance, in time, a flower, thus, may, last, for, years, a, wine, must, age, to be, sublime, but, first, the, grapes, must, run, quite, and clear.
They stop and look at the underlined words, thinking that they might be a code. When they write them all out it comes the following:
Along the narrow way it goes
From house to house and back again
A carpet for a traveler’s woes
That always brings one home again.
What happened to grapes? And wine?
Ellen hides the journal, and when Mimi sees this she stars to feel bad about telling Ethan. She was about to say something, but chickens out and goes to her room instead.
The next morning after breakfast, they read more of the journal to see if there is more secret code.
Hogg, I mean Higg- I mean Harries Bigg-Wither wants to marry Jane but she is not interested. Jane is also rewriting Sense & Sensiblity, as her recent times with Mr. Bigg-Wither has given her ideas (? not sure what). They find more underlining and this is what it makes.
A gentlemen learns from an early age
To play his part upon the stage
His lines are crisp, his speech is clear
He studies most from year to year.
Couples crowd to dance in time
A flower thus may last for years
A wine must age to be sublime
But first the grapes must run quite clear
Tailor, draper, seamstress all
Needles, thread and trimmings
Fashion, fir or rough or small
With trunks and boxes brimming
The girls decide to take a break from their detective work as they have the hike to go on. They hide the diary and head out.
Ethan approaches Mimi about seeing the diary. Mimi doesn’t want to, but figures that if she doesn’t Ethan is saying see ya.
No Mimi, no! You need someone to value you not what you have.
Tom also approaches Mimi and tells her that she can trust him. When he leaves she is approached by Ethan who manipulates her into thinking the can have a relationship if only he gets to see the book.
The next day Ethan leaves, and Mimi is devastated, She feels guilty about telling him about the journal and her feet are in excruciating pain. Tom tries to help her but Mimi has decided she wants to do it all on her own, show everyone.
That day when Ellen goes into her room the diary is gone!
She confronts Mrs. Parrot but doesn’t get a straight answer if she is involved.
Mimi on the other hand has spent even more time with Tom and is starting to fall for him.
Mimi and Ellen try to figure out the code but start sharing other things. Mimi says she is sorry that she made a fool of herself over Ethan. Ellen admits to the diary being stolen. When Mim is about to fully confess about Ethan they are interrupted by Mrs. Parrot.
Tom tells Mimi that Ethan is a womanizer and looking for a rich wife to take care of him and his house. Mimi is mad that Tom didn’t say anything earlier but acquiesce that she probably wouldn’t have believed him.
They meet with Mrs. Parrot and find out that she and their mother were part of a secret Austen group, the Formidables. Their mother took the diary when she left the country. They also learn that the diary is part if a set.
Ellen thinks Daniel stole the diary and confronts him, but Mimi isn’t so sure.
At the last dinner it turns out that Mimi and Ellen’s mother planned the entire trip. Tom also tells Mimi how much he cares for her and Mimi thinks of moving to England.
Mimi finally ponys up about Ethan and Ellen is furious. But she forgives her and the two agree to a new start.
They approach Mrs. Parrot and tell her about the clues. They figure out that the diary is in a cabinet, one that Mimi saw in Ethan’s house.
They trick him with Daniel distracting, while the girls find the Jane diary, blackmailing the Cassandra one out of him as well.
They release their mother’s ashes and Mrs Parrot reveals that she is actually their aunt.
They give the diaries to Mrs. Parrot and then Ellen returns home to start anew with Daniel, while Mimi decides to stay in England.
So what do I think of this book?
Well, I actually really enjoyed it.
I know, I was surprised too. I thought that Patillo presented the story of the Dashwoods well, along with the sister relationship; staying out of the cliché pitfalls that most novelist fall into.
The only problem I had with this was that I thought it was a bit odd that Mimi and Tom fall in love in a week but other than that I loved every part of it.
Five Stars! 🙂
For more of Beth Patillo’s works, go to Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart
For more books based on Jane Austen’s work, go to Death Comes to Pemberley
For more on Sense and Sensibility, go to I Don’t Want You Far From Me: Sense and Sensibility (1995)
For more Sense and Sensibility variations, go to The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries
For more on Cecelia Gray, go to An Awesome Author