In 32-year-old singleton Jane Hayes's mind, no man in the world can measure up to Fitzwilliam Darcy—specifically the Fitzwilliam played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Jane is forced to confront her Austen obsession when her wealthy great-aunt Carolyn dies and leaves her an all-expenses-paid vacation to Pembrook Park, a British resort where guests live like the characters in Jane's beloved Austen novels. Jane sees the trip as an opportunity for one last indulgence of her obsession before she puts it "all behind her—Austen, men, fantasies, period," but the lines between reality and fiction become pleasantly blurred as Jane acclimates to the world of Spencer jackets and stringent etiquette rules, and finds herself torn between the Darcyesque Mr. Nobley and a forbidden tryst with Pembrook Park's gardener. Though the narrative is endlessly charming, Jane is convincing neither as a sarcastic single girl nor as a romantic idealist, and the supporting cast is underdeveloped. Nods to Austen are abundant in contemporary women's fiction, and an intriguing setup and abundant wit are not enough to make this one stand out. (June)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Austenland: A Novelby Shannon Hale
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Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?
In her first novel for adults, Newbery Honor Medalist Hale (Princess Academy) puts an intriguing twist on Austenmania by writing about a Jane Austen fantasy camp tailor-made for Colin Firth obsessives looking for their very own Mr. Darcy. Jane Hayes has the history of bad experiences with men typical of all chick-lit heroines, so she's resigned herself to a life of clandestine viewings of Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version, of course). Her wealthy Aunt Carolyn discovers her obsession and leaves Jane a fascinating bequest: a trip to Pembrook Park, a Regency-themed retreat where actors play out women's romantic fantasies. Jane adopts the identity of Miss Jane Erstwhile, dons her corset and gown, and experiences life as a Regency lady. She falls for a gardener-a big no-no at the camp-while also finding herself strangely attracted to cranky, distant Mr. Nobley. The hijinks that follow are entertaining if predictable (especially for P&P Austen fans). An amusing trifle likely to please chick-lit readers and Austen aficionados who enjoy modern twists on the author's classic tales.
Thirty-three-year-old Jane Hayes, who has a fairly serious addiction to the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice , inherits a trip to Pembrook Park, Kent, England, the location of a resort where guests dress, talk, think, and act in ways that Jane Austen would approve. Refusing to lie about her age, even on vacation in a place right out of Austen's England, Jane finds herself quickly overcoming the obsession with Mr. Darcy that may very well have jeopardized her 13 "relationships" over the years. Left to walk in last to dinner, mildly obsessed with one of the hotel's gardeners, and annoyed by another guest's overeager attempts to bag a man, Jane is eager to return to Manhattan. Then she decides to give it all one more chance, since Great-Aunt Carolyn did see fit to pay for the entire vacation. Hale does a lovely job with the tale of a single woman who would appreciate a genuine shot at love. The book is well written, quite readable, and the myriad characters, especially those working at the resort, are quirkily funny. Given the immense popularity of Jane Austen's novels among teen girls, this book definitely has cross-over appeal.
Sarah KrygierCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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By Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USACopyright © 2007 Shannon Hale
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Chapter One1 year ago
Jane's mother, Shirley, came to visit and brought along Great-Aunt Carolyn. It was an awkward gathering, and in the lapses of conversation, Jane could hear dead leaves crack as they hit her apartment floor. She loved her houseplants, but keeping them alive seemed beyond her skills.
"Really, Jane, I don't know how you survive here," said Shirley, picking the brittle leaves from among the sallow green ones. "We had a near-death experience in your coffin-of-an-elevator, didn't we Carolyn, dear? I'm sure your poor aunt wants to relax, but it's like a sauna in here and not a moment of silence-traffic, car alarms, sirens nonstop. Are you sure your windows aren't open?"
"It's Manhattan, Mom. That's just how it is."
"Well, I don't know about that." She took a scolding stance, hand on hip. The sixty-year-old wood floor grunted beneath her feet. "I just picked up Carolyn from her apartment, and sitting in her front room it was so blessedly quiet I could have sworn we were in the country."
That's because money buys thick windows, Jane thought.
"Never mind. Tell me, how's your ..."
Please don't say it! Jane thought. Don't ask about my love life!
"... friendMolly doing?"
"Oh, Molly. Yeah, she's great, working freelance for the paper since she had the twins. Molly and I have been friends since the sixth grade," Jane explained to Carolyn, who sat in her wheelchair by the front door.
Carolyn had as many wrinkles in her face as there are ridges in a fingerprint, not just around her eyes and on her brow, but delicate folds rippling across her thin cheeks. She returned a blank stare then tweaked it slightly, an intimation of rolling her eyes. Jane didn't know if it was pointed or conspiratorial, so she pretended not to notice.
She hadn't seen Carolyn since she was twelve, at her grandmother's funeral. It had struck her as odd that when her mother came into the city, Shirley had insisted on including Carolyn in their lunch plans. But from the hungry, significant looks her mother kept pushing on her, Jane could guess-the old woman was getting older, and Shirley wanted to make an impression, a last bid for the remains of the seafood fortune. No doubt picking up Jane at her apartment rather than meeting at the restaurant was a ploy to show Carolyn her great-niece's shameful living conditions.
"Shall we skedaddle?" asked Jane, eager to get the meddling over with.
"Yes, sweetheart, let me just fix your hair."
And Jane, age thirty-two, followed her mother into the bathroom and submitted herself to the slicking and spraying and twisting. No matter her age, whenever her mother did her hair, Jane felt exactly seven years old. But she let her mom go to town, because Shirley "Miss French Twist 1967" Hayes could only find true tranquillity in a well-placed do.
"Be sure you listen, dear," said Shirley, delivering her hushed, urgent lecture on How to Impress the Elderly. "They love that. Ask her about her childhood and let her go on, if she's so inclined. At this point in her life, memories are all she has left, poor lamb."
When they emerged from the bathroom, Carolyn wasn't where they had left her. Jane rushed into the next room, jolted with a nightmare of a wheelchair bumping down the stairs (and with it an unnerving flashback of watching The Changeling at her eleventh birthday slumber party). But there was Carolyn by the window, leaning over to tug a floor plant into the yellow square of sunlight. Jane heard a thwack as her Pride and Prejudice DVDs fell from their arboreal hideaway and onto the floor.
Jane felt herself flush. Carolyn smiled, her uncountable cheek wrinkles gathered into a few deeper ones.
Really, so what if she had seen the DVDs? A lot of people owned them. Why should she hide them? She didn't hide her copy of Arrested Development: Season 1 or Yoga for Dummies. Still, something in Carolyn's smile made her feel as though she stood there in her underwear. Dirty underwear.
At the restaurant when Shirley left to powder her proverbial nose, Jane did her best to pretend she was not the least bit uncomfortable. A minute of silence passed. She plowed her garden salad with a fork, weeding out the arugula.
"It's been a warm autumn," she offered.
"You're wondering if I saw it," Carolyn said. Some voices get hard and tight with age, some rough like broken glass. Her voice was soft, sand beat by waves till it's as fine as powdered sugar.
"Saw what?" Jane asked halfheartedly.
"He is a devil, that Mr. Darcy. But you wouldn't hide him in a houseplant if you didn't have a guilty conscience. That tells me you're not idly daydreaming. You're past thirty, not married, not dating-if your mother's gossip and the photos in your apartment tell the truth. And it all comes down to that story. You're obsessed."
Jane laughed. "I am not obsessed."
But really she was.
"Hm. You're blushing. Tell me, what is it about that story that's so intoxicating?"
Jane gulped down her water and glanced over her shoulder toward the ladies' room, making sure her mother wasn't returning. "Besides being witty and funny and maybe the best novel ever written, it's also the most perfect romance in all of literature and nothing in life can ever measure up, so I spend my life limping in its shadow."
Carolyn stared, as if waiting for more. Jane thought she'd said enough already.
"It is a lovely novel," Carolyn said, "but you weren't concealing a paperback in your plant. I've seen the movie. I know who Colin Firth is, my dear. And I think I know what you've put your life on hold to wait for."
"Listen, I don't actually believe I can somehow end up married to Mr. Darcy. I just ... nothing in real life feels as right as ... oh, never mind, I don't want you believing your great-niece is living in a fantasyland."
Jane forced a smile. "Warm autumn, isn't it?"
Carolyn pressed her lips together so they were as wrinkled as her cheeks. "How's your love life?"
"I'm on the wagon."
"Is that so? Giving up at age thirty-two. Hm. May I hazard a guess?" Carolyn leaned forward, her silky voice easing between the sounds of clattering plates and too-hardy businessmen laughter. "Things aren't working out so well, and each time the men in your life disappoint, you let Mr. Darcy in a little bit more. Perhaps you've come to the point where you're so attached to the idea of that scoundrel, you won't be satisfied with anything less."
An olive stuck to the piece of lettuce on Jane's fork, and when she tried to flick it off, it flew over the table and tapped a waiter in the butt. Jane scowled. Certainly, her list of ex-boyfriends was impressively pathetic. And there was that dream she'd had a few weeks ago-she'd been dressed in a ragged wedding gown (à la Miss Havisham of Great Expectations fame), dancing alone in a dark house, waiting for Mr. Darcy to come for her. When she awoke with a sharp intake of breath, the dream had been still too raw and terrifying to laugh at. In fact, she still couldn't.
"Maybe I am batty," Jane said.
"I remember you, Jane." Carolyn had pale blue eyes like denim washed too often. "I remember sitting in that gazebo with you by the lake after my sister's, your grandmother's, funeral. I remember you weren't afraid to say how during the service you couldn't help wondering what might be for lunch and was that wrong? Did that mean that you didn't love your grandma enough? Your voice, your little girl questions took some of the sting out of my grief. You're too honest to let yourself get duped like this."
Jane nodded. "That day, you were wearing a lace collar. I thought it was elegant."
"My late husband bought me that dress. It was my favorite." Carolyn refolded her napkin, smoothing the edge with slightly shaky hands. "Harold and I had a miserable marriage. He didn't talk much and was busy with work. I got bored and was rich enough to date delectable young men on the side. After a time, Harold fooled around, too, mostly to hurt me, I think. It wasn't until I was too old to attract the playboys anymore that I turned to the man next to me and realized how much I loved his face. We had two blissful years together before his heart took him out. I was such a fool, Jane. I couldn't see what was real until time had washed away everything else." She was matter-of-fact, the pain behind the words worn out long ago.
"Hmph. It'd be better to be sorry for yourself. I'm old and rich, and people let me say whatever I want. So here it is. Figure out what is real for you. No use leaning on someone else's story all your life. You know, that book did Austen herself no good-died a spinster."
"I know." The thought had haunted Jane many times, and it was a favorite weapon of anti-Austen enthusiasts.
"Not that there's anything wrong with spinsters," Carolyn said, patting the fragile folds in her neck.
"Of course not. Spinster is just an archaic term for 'career-minded.'"
"Listen, sweetie, my story's told. I've had my dancing days, and I'm facing my own The End. But sky and stars know how your story will turn out. So go make your happily-ever-after happen." Her voice had a Little League coach enthusiasm. It was sweetly patronizing. Time to change the subject. Very nonchalantly.
"Why don't you tell me about your childhood, Aunt Carolyn?"
Carolyn laughed, soft as room-temperature butter. "Tell you about my childhood, and just in the nick of time. Well, don't mind if I do. I was a limper from the time I could walk. Our folks were poor and your grandma and I shared a bed that leaned to one side, though I can't be sure if that bed was the cause ..."
When Shirley returned from the restroom, Carolyn was quoting the price of milk when she was a child, and Shirley gave her daughter an approving smile. Thanks be she hadn't overheard the batty-great-niece part of the conversation. Her mother was practical from her robust eyeglass frames to her thick-heeled shoes, and no daughter of hers would dally about in a fantasyland.
And Jane was eager to agree. Seriously, a thirty-something woman shouldn't be daydreaming about a fictional character in a two-hundred-year-old world to the point where it interfered with her very real and much more important life and relationships. Of course she shouldn't.
Jane crunched down on a piece of arugula.
Chapter Two6 months ago
Great-aunt Carolyn passed away.
"And you're in the will, dear!" her mother said, calling from Vermont. "Apparently our last-minute lunch did the trick. The lawyer will be in touch. Call me the moment you learn the amount!"
Jane hung up and sat down, forcing herself not to think about the will, spending a few moments with the thought of the woman who'd loved Harold's face, who'd wasted three decades of loving, who'd ripped open Jane's chest and laid out what she saw. She had not known Carolyn well enough to grieve, only to feel softened, mystified by the idea of death.
And yet, Carolyn had thought of Jane enough to scratch her name into the will. What would she leave a near-stranger relative? Carolyn had a large family so the amount couldn't be much, but then again the rumors of her great-aunt's wealth were legendary. Enough to move her into an apartment with air-conditioning? Enough to retire?
Jane balked at that thought. It wasn't so much that she loved her job-it wasn't bad work, doing graphic design at the magazine, but it was, you know, a job. She couldn't knock such a nice piece of stability, somewhere to go every day, something (unlike men) that didn't rip the rug out from under her and send her sprawling. But on the subway ride to the attorney's, Jane wondered, if she were tempted with a huge sum, would she fold? Would she quit her job and buy a house in the Hamptons and adopt a miniature poodle named Porridge who peed on the carpet?
These questions and alternate names for the poodle kept her mind busy as she traveled up into the law firm's sleek gray building, up into the conservative burgundy and tan office, down into a stuffed leather chair to hear the extraordinarily pale lawyer say, "You're not rich."
"In fact, she didn't leave you any money at all." His every blink was slow and deliberate, reminding Jane of a frog. "People often hope, so I like to get that out up front."
Jane laughed uneasily. "Oh, I wasn't thinking that."
"Of course." The attorney sat down and sorted through a stack of papers with no wasted movement. He was saying something in lawyer-ese, but Jane was distracted. She was trying to figure out what besides the measured blinking made him seem so amphibious. His taut, shiny complexion, she decided. And his eyes being so wide apart. And his salad green tone. (Okay, he wasn't actually green, but the rest was true.)
He was still talking. "Our client was ... eclectic ... in her will. She made purchases for a few friends and family members and left the bulk of her money to charities. For you, she arranged a vacation."
He handed her a glossy, oversized pamphlet. On the cover was a photograph of a large manor house. A man in jacket, cravat, and breeches, and a woman in an empire-waist dress and bonnet were walking in the foreground. They seemed awfully content. Jane's hands went cold.
She read the elegantly inserted text. Pembrook Park, Kent, England. Enter our doors as a house guest come to stay three weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality-a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more ... Here, the Prince Regent still rules a carefree England. No scripts. No written endings. A holiday no one else can offer you.
"I don't get it."
"It's an all-inclusive, three-week vacation in England. From what I gather, you dress up and pretend to be someone in the year 1816." The attorney handed her a packet. "It also comes with a first-class plane ticket. The vacation is nonrefundable, my client saw to that. But if you do need cash, you could exchange the first-class airfare for economy class and pocket the change. I make such suggestions whenever I can. I like to be helpful."
Jane hadn't looked away from the pamphlet. The man and woman in the photo held her gaze like a magician's swaying watch. She hated them and adored them, longed to be that woman but needed to stay firmly in New York City in the present day and pretend she had no such odd fantasies. No one guessed her thoughts, not her mother, not her closest friends. But Great- Aunt Carolyn had known.
"Pocket the change," she said distractedly.
"Just make certain you report it to the IRS."
"Right." Seemed odd, that Carolyn would point out this flaw in her poor, pathetic great-niece and then send her right into the belly of the beast. Jane groaned. "I'm hopeless."
"What was that?"
"Um, did I say that out loud? Anyway, I'm not hopeless, that's the problem. I'm too hopeful, if anything." She sat up, leaning against his desk. "If I were to tell you my first dozen boyfriend stories, you'd call me screwy for ever going out with anyone again. But I have! I'm so thick-headed it's taken me this long to give up on men, but I can't give up completely, you know? So I ... I channel all my hope into an idea, to someone who can't reject me because he isn't real!"
The lawyer straightened a stack of papers. "I think I should clarify, Miss Hayes, that I did not mean to flirt. I am a happily married man."
Jane gaped. "Uh, of course you are. My mistake. I'll just be going now." She grabbed her purse and split.
The elevator dropped her back at street level, and even after stepping through the doors, the ground still felt as though it were falling away under her feet. She fell/walked all the way back to work and into her gray rollerchair.
Todd the manager was at her cubicle the moment her chair squeaked.
"How you doin', Jane?" he asked in his oft-affected pseudo-Sopranos accent.
She stared. He had a new haircut. His white blond hair was now spiked with an incredible amount of pomade that smelled of raspberries, a do that could only be carried off with true success by a fifteen-year-old boy wielding an impressive and permanent glare. Todd was grinning. And forty-three. Jane wondered if politeness required her to offer a compliment on something glaringly obvious.
"Uh ... you, your hair is different."
"Hey, girls always notice the hair. Right? Isn't that basically right?"
Excerpted from Austenland by Shannon Hale Copyright © 2007 by Shannon Hale. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Shannon's mother says she was a storyteller from birth, jabbering endlessly in her carriage as the two strolled through the neighborhood; once she could form complete sentences, she made up stories, bribing her younger siblings to perform them in mini plays. When she was ten, she began writing books, mostly fantasy stories where she was the heroine, and she continued writing secretly for years while pursuing acting in stage and improv comedy. After detours studying in Mexico, the U. K., and Paraguay, Shannon earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Utah and a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. In the interim, she submitted short stories and novels to magazines and publishers, saving all her rejection letters which she has since laminated into one continuous 60-foot roll which she proudly unfurls to audiences as a testament to her dedication and determination. Since the publication of her first book, The Goose Girl, in 2003, Shannon has become a beloved author to young readers as well as booksellers and educators. Her third novel, Princess Academy, earned her a Newbery Honor and is a The New York Times, Book Sense, and Publishers Weekly bestseller. Shannon has also written two books for adults, Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife. Shannon lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, Dean, their children, and their pet, a small plastic pig. shannonhale.com
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Austenland is an intriguing concept that is carried of rather well. From a high level, it involves a thirty-something single woman named Jane off for 3 weeks of "Live Action Role Play" (LARP) in a Regency House populated with servants, gentlemen and other women searching for Victorian style romance. I expected plenty of sappy moments and coming away with a sugar headache. Instead, I found a thoughtful and fun (albeit cheesy at times) romance that tries to get to the heart of romance while exploring unrealistic expectations and the joys and pains of obsessions. Starting out the novel, I was worried that Jane would quickly become a stereotypical archetype...the 'unlucky in love' woman who obsesses over Pride & Prejudice (and other similar books), spurns men as vile and unromantic, and sets herself expectations that can never be achieved. By the end of the book, many of those traits were in fact proven out. However, Jane did progress through the novel and explored her own psychology to determine which of those characteristics were realistic and which should be abandoned. Her path to discovery was humorous at times, frustrating at others, but in the end felt believable. I really found myself getting to understand and sympathize with Jane while at the same time wanting to shout at her that she was an idiot. I absolutely loved the prefaces to many of the chapters in the book...many of the chapters began with a short description of each of Jane's "boyfriends" (of which I think she had 15). Most were a few paragraphs...one was just a sentence. Each was very insightful into her character and each was rather humorous...the kind of humor that is funny because you can see the reality behind the pathetic occurrence. As an example, one of these "boyfriend" descriptions tells about how she first saw the boy in class and they shared a glance and then, because he was too shy, she asked him out...to which he responded, "sure...and what was your name"....which promptly ended their "relationship". As for the other characters, I felt that they were well portrayed, but I had some trouble (as did Jane) trying to sort out the behavior of the actors versus those of the person behind the character. I really felt Hale did a good job of keeping the true person at a distance while exposing glimpses of reality, but I would have liked to have seen more "behind-the-scenes" moments with them. We get one VERY brief scene where one of the characters is smoking behind a bush and talks about "getting back to work." I would like to have seen moments like that elaborated on a bit more. The writing and the plot flowed along very nicely and it was a very fun read. Even though I am a heterosexual male, I did enjoy the book and can recommend it. However, I can't recommend it to everyone. For example, most of my friends (both male and female) would likely laugh at the suggestion and never make it beyond the first chapter. Others would certainly eat it up. I think that in order to enjoy this, the reader must first have an appreciation, if not a love, of Victorian literature and particularly Victorian romances. Having at least a perception of the obsession around Pride and Prejudice may also help. So, two scores. To those who don't like Victorian romances - 1 star To those who enjoy Victorian lit, romances, or "girlie" books - 3.5 stars
Shannon Hale's young adult fantasy is wonderful. Jane Austen is wonderful. So I looked forward to this novel, which was one of the biggest disappointments I've ever read. It's painfully anti-romantic, almost embarrassing. The heroine seems to need to apologize for liking Austen, goes to a kind of fake Regency vacation home, where she's forced into uncomfortable clothing, and must endure conversation with players whose titles are incorrect for the period, and who don't seem to know the manners of the time. She is awkward, making the reader feel awkward: there is no grace, and certainly no romance. The 'Darcy' character is stiff and morose without charm. The heroine goes on and on at excruciating length about her ambivalence. I made it three quarters of the way through before I had to give up, as nothing had happened except more dull dialog interspersed with inner maundering.
This was a different style than im used to for this author ranging it seems for an older audience. The main character is infatuated with the Jane Austen novels namely Pride and Prejudious. When one of Jane's rich relatives passes away Jane is given a trip of a lifetime. This trip will take her to Austenland where guests an actors dress up into 1700s attire and express the culture of the area along the way. Character style is still much the same as other stories I have read from this author. If you want to read this book I would suggest some knowledge of Jane Austen books because there is mention of them through the book that I was clueless on since I have never personally read the novels.
It was very funny, a good light read for all those Jane Austen obsessed. The story line could have been a little more thought out and I wouldn't expect it to become an instant classic, but it was very enjoyable! I highly recommend it!
I love a good story with a happy ending, and this book definitely had one. The story did leave a lasting impression, though, because it reminded me just how suffocating life can feel when we're living in a world where we're unaccustomed to the rules and how it can leave us vunerable to manipulation. I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Not literature for the ages but a fun quick read.
I thought this was an interesting read, but really, the lead character just seemed a little immature. To be in her 30s and counting the guys you basically looked at twice as your boyfriend? Totally unrealistic and, in a word, sad.
The book is a little slow initially, but soon picks up. It is well-written and charming. Definitely recommended.
I am a big Jane Austen fan, so I was excited to see this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. While there were some cheesy moments overall it was a fun read.
I like Jane Austen books, and always wondered what it would be like to live those times. It was a fun read. Hopefully the movie will be likable as well.
I am a big Jane Austen fan, so when I saw this book I was excited to see what the storyline would be. While I found it started a bit slow, once I got into the book I found that I really got to like the main character and the journey she took. It is defiantly worth reading.
An excellent plot idea poorly carried out.
This is a really fun read! Silly and light. Very enjoyable. I feel like I am hanging out with a girlfriend when I read this book. :)
I love Shannon Hale's writing normally. But this was so drab. I guess it simplified some classics and modernized them into something more understandable to the average person today, but I found it really unoriginal and hard to get through.
Originally posted at: www.longandshortreviews.blogspot.com ***** Shannon Hale is most well-known for her YA novels, but her first foray into adult novels does not disappoint. Jane is a hopeless addict of Pride and Prejudice, most notably the BBC's rendition with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Her great-aunt discovers Jane's obsession and, with a wisdom born from long years of not recognizing love herself, bequeaths a three week vacation to Austenland, a role-playing resort where people - most notably women - immerse themselves into Jane Austen's England and an extended stay at Pembrook Park. Ms. Hale has a refreshing voice - this is a light, entertaining read perfect for any time the reader wants to get away for a while. The characters, even minor ones, are richly drawn and, even though I'm - ahem - a little older than Jane, I could still empathize with her luck with her "boyfriends" and relationship issues. There were some laugh-out-loud moments such as Ms. Hale's description of Great-Aunt Caroline's lawyer, who reminded Jane of a frog: He was saying something in lawyer-ese, but Jane was distracted. She was trying to figure out what besides the measured blinking made him seem so amphibious. His taut, shiny complexion, she decided. And his eyes being so wide apart. And his salad green tone. (Okay, he wasn't actually green, but the rest was true). I kept interrupting my husband's reading to share parts with him - to the extent he finally put down his own book and just listened to me read and giggle. The romance - who will she wind up with - the gardener, the gentleman, anyone? Without giving anything away (this is a romance after all), I can let you know you won't be disappointed. Austenland drops a modern woman into the world of the Regency house party and the fun begins. If you love Jane Austen's books, the movies, or just a fun romance, Austenland is one book you shouldn't miss.
Many women could relate to Shannon Hale's heroine in Austenland. In her thirties, living in New York, and still single after a slew of bad relationships, Jane has decided to forsake men and live out her life with Mr. Darcy. As a dedicated Austen fan, she spends her evenings watching Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle while lamenting the death of romance, top hats, cravats, and all other manner of Regency wonders. But what if those things didn't have to be a thing of the past? What if Austen fans could become a part of the stories they love so much, if only for a little while? Austenland provides a hilarious and insightful look into such a possibility. While having lunch, Jane Hayes' great aunt scrutinizes Jane's affection of Austen's leading man. Her great aunt informs her that she must let go of her fantasies about fictional characters and stop destroying her real relationships. Following this conversation, Jane receives a "trip" from her great aunt in which she is to fly to England and partake in a sort of theme park geared towards Jane Austen fans. As soon as she arrives, Jane is forced to give over all of her modern amenities. For the next month, she will eat, sleep, and breathe the 19th century. The house where Jane is staying is full of people, including various actors and another woman who is also living out her Austen fantasies. Jane considers the whole thing to be incredibly ridiculous, and initially rebels against the whole concept. However, after some time at the park, she decides to go ahead and have some fun. To Jane, this is her last big Austen fantasy before she returns home and forsakes men and love for good. During her time at Austenland, Jane experiences all sorts of unusual and hilarious events that influence her perspectives on life and love. I loved this book! If you are a lover of Jane Austen, this book is a fun take on what it is to be an Austen fan! Keep in mind, this is not the type of book that takes you back in time to Regency England, and it's not written as such either. It's 100% modern, and aside from when the characters are role playing, all behavior and language is that of the 21st century. If you're looking for a literary classic, this is not it! However, if you are the sort of person who daydreams about being one of Austen's characters, I definitely feel that you would enjoy this book. One of my favorite qualities of this book was the writing. It was a light, easy read, and I love that you occasionally witness Jane's conflicted thoughts. Her thought processes are hilarious (perhaps because they are slightly reminiscent of my own) and lend a bit of realism to the book. Another awesome feature is that each chapter is kicked off with a hilariously tragic story from Jane's previous relationships, allowing the reader to gain some understanding of why her love life has gone so awry. This book really stands out among the numerous books I own that are based on the works of Jane Austen. It is the only book I've ever read that utilizes the modern fan as a character, giving voice to a fantasy that many Austen fans have had. It's a lot like BBC's Lost In Austen, but in a slightly more believable context. Have you ever fantasized about being Lizzy Bennet? Have you determined that your chances of a happy relationship are forever ruined because no man is Mr. Darcy? Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to attend a ball and mingle with the haute ton? If you answered yes to any of these, this book is for you!
This bittersweet, funny slim little novel is first and foremost a love letter to Jane Austen, despite its well-deserved (and hilarious) dedication to Colin Firth. For those of us who, like the novel's heroine Jane Hayes, have happily reread all of Austen's novels over the years (except, as Hale points out, NORTHANGER ABBEY, which only got that one read), this story is a pleasant romp in Austenland. I was pleased with the way Jane questioned what in the world she was doing at what amounts to a Regency period fun park, with the way she alternately resists giving in to the fantasy and longs to dive in with reckless abandon. And I enjoyed the romantic comedy finish line ending.
I am a big fan of Shannon Hale. Her books are so well written, original in style, great characters and story. This one was a dissapointment. I cared nothing about the characters and felt none of the magic I had while reading her other books.
I must admit I found the movie before the book, but once I saw the movie, I had to read the book and I wasn't disappointed. If you like a lighthearted romance with a large dollop of humor thrown in for good measure, this book is for you. I highly recommend it.
Good book, gives a little more depth to the characters that there wasn't time for in the movie.
The actual story was good but i felt that it wasnt written well. It seemed boring and dull in some parts. The movie in my opinion is better. Overall it was a good book.
I read this in less than a day. Light-hearted, clean, and sweet, it made for a nice, little diversion on a cold, wet day. I got a redbox of the movie soon after. It has a few tweaks from the book, but it was close enough. Cute story!
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Although I must admit, I watched the movie first... The author has a way of pulling you in and rooting for the heroine. She made me laugh so hard I was afraid to read the book in public! Great read!