Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale
Publish date: 2007
Source: Library
"Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. 

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I had no idea what to expect going into this book. It was a lot shorter than I imagined (only 197 pages!), so I knew there had to be a lot of goodness packed into a small book. It ended up being a lot of fun and the perfect kind of read for spring break.

If you've ever read Jane Austen or even seen adaptations of her novels, you know that she concocts some crazy stories with generally handsome leading men. The main character of Austenland, Jane, knows this all too well and she essentially gets to experience it firsthand when she spends 3 weeks in England at a type of regency resort. How fun does that sound?!?!?! I'll be honest, at first it was vaguely creepy (to me, at least). Everyone there is an actor; you are playing the role of a person from 1816, all the way down to manner of speaking, undergarments, and food. After a few of Jane's days there, I got into it and had some fun with the characters.

Like I said, I didn't know what I was getting into before reading Austenland, and when I finished, I knew I would classify this as a fun book. Shannon Hale is not trying to emulate Austen at all here; she is just taking a female's fantasy of Mr. Darcy (sound familiar to anyone?) and creating a delightfully fun book out of it. The book was fairly predictable, but not in a bad way, although I was slightly surprised by the ending. I'll definitely be reading the sequel, Midnight in Austenland, and will be looking into more of Ms. Hale's work!

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