Beth Pattillo’s The Dashwood Sisters Tell All is a story of restoring relationships. Sisters Ellen and Mimi couldn’t be more different, but when their mother’s dying wish sends them on a Jane Austen walking tour in England, they are forced to face a lifetime of not getting along. The journey forces them to face their respective pasts, and it challenges them to change who they have become into the women they were destined to be.
The book is written in first person narrative, which switches between the two sisters. It is fairly well done in that, for the most part, the reader can tell who is narrating based on her voice. The relationships among all the characters are fairly realistic and easy to follow. The most unforgettable experience is the mystery of the Austen sisters’ diaries; that part of the story is particularly well done.
Ellen is the older, more responsible sister who has never been able to live her own life because she has always been taking care of others. Mimi is the younger, carefree sister who has never bothered to think about others because she has always been wrapped up in her own life. When their Jane Austen-obsessed mother dies, her last wish is that they find a place along a Jane Austen walking tour to scatter her ashes. Along the way, Ellen runs into a former beau (hired by her mother), and Mimi runs into an unexpected new one. Their mother also leaves them in possession of a mysterious diary, which takes them on a different journey. Through it all, the women grow closer as sisters and healthier as women.
All of the characters in the book seem to be rather uncomplicated and a bit shallow. However, their problems and challenges are very real. The overall plot of the book is mostly predictable, although there are a few interesting twists. The character development is not very observable until the end, when the main characters are suddenly “fixed” and making huge life changes. Nevertheless, the book is engaging, and while the author does not make any specific religious references, the book is clearly written from a Christian point of view. An appropriate Bible verse for this book would be Luke 17:3, “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”
All of the loose ends seemed pretty neatly tied up at the end of the book. Women who are looking for a heart-warmer will enjoy it, and I recommend it to them. – Becky R. Blomenberg, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Ellen and Mimi Dodge have never been close, but their mother's dying wish sends them on a walking tour of Hampshire, England, that follows in the footsteps of Jane Austen. Their mother also left them something else: a diary that belonged to Jane's sister Cassandra. These pages shed light on the secrets that nearly tore the Austen sisters apart and inspired one of the greatest love stories of all time. They also bring Jane to life in a way that no one has ever seen before: through the eyes of her sister. As the Dodge sisters embark on their walking tour, they too are drawn together in ways they never expected. They also discover that Cassandra's diary holds secrets, and someone doesn't want Ellen and Mimi to discover the truth. As they stumble on their way toward love, the women learn how Jane and Cassandra Austen inspired the original Marianne and Elinor Dashwood and come to realize that despite their very different personalities, they are a vital part of each other's happy endings.