Ruth Wilson was 60 when she first started to question what it meant to be happy. At a surprise birthday party, where 60 people greeted her clapping and cheering, she realised she was "out of love with the world".
Ten years later, on her 70th birthday, despite professional counselling, she knew that something needed to change in her life. A family legacy had helped her to buy a small cottage in the Southern Highlands and, after 50 years of marriage, she decided to leave her bewildered husband and move permanently to live alone in her cottage and try "to find a happier way of living".
She saw the move as "a last chance to examine what had become of a girl's once-upon-a-time great expectations of life". She felt that after a lifetime of being a compliant daughter, wife and mother, she needed to find her own voice and rediscover her own values.
At the same time Wilson realised that, beside her family and her professional life, her greatest love was reading fiction and that, for her, Jane Austen's novels were her "benchmark for pleasure as her heroines had been models for the sort of woman I wanted to become".
Wilson, therefore, decided to reread Austen's six novels as a remedy for her despondency and examine her life through her reading. The result has been not only a PhD at the age of 88, but also The Jane Austen Remedy, her memoir with the sub-title, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book can change a life".
Wilson uses her re-reading of Austen's six novels as a framework for memorable moments in her life. Therefore, the chapter on Pride and Prejudice focuses on her Jewish heritage and childhood, the prejudices she herself has encountered and how important it is to weigh up evidence before making value judgements.
Northanger Abbey reminds her of the importance of friendship, as well as how false friends can be so attractive, remembering her short-lived friendship with Lillian Roxon at Sydney University.
Sense and Sensibility and the conflicting temperament of the Dashwood sisters made her confront her own "stormy feelings", while Mansfield Park reminded her of the importance of depending on her own morality and not being seduced by glamour, as the Bertram family is by the Crawfords.
Emma, on rereading for Wilson is a novel about love and a motherless heroine learning to love herself, while Persuasion became a novel about second chances and for Wilson and her husband there has been a second chance. The remedy worked and Wilson has now returned to Sydney. She and her husband live an amicable life apart and yet together, as each evening he cooks and they eat together.
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