Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

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?

This was a fun, light-hearted read.  I almost gave up on it about half-way through it, but right when I was about to give up the story got really interesting.  The last 75 pages saved the book for me. 

Jane is a graphic designer who has been unlucky in love.  She longs for a romance similar to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.  As a huge Pride and Prejudice fan (the book and the movie starring Keira Knightley) I was excited to read Austenland (which to me, was a retelling of Pride and Prejudice).  Jane's aunt sends her on a three-week vacation to Pemberly Park, which is basically a bunch of adults pretending that they live in 1816, complete with full Regency dress, food, restrictions on modern conveniences (cell phones, etc), and scripted romances.  Guests of Pemberly Park play Regency women, and paid actors play the men.  The actors are charged with providing the guests with a falling in love Regency-style experience, complete with a proposal at the end of the stay.  They couples have to follow the Regency rules (no walking alone together, no touching, no kissing, etc). 

The Regency dialogue felt tedious and forced at times.  This is what was making me want to give up on the book.  I'm glad I didn't though, because I really enjoyed the conclusion.  I would recommend Austenland for a chick-lit summer read and for Jane Austen fans.

Just One Gripe:
The stilted Regency dialogue grated on my nerves.  It's much more tolerable when you're watching the movie and you can enjoy Mr. Darcy's accent. Now that I think of that, this would probably be a great audiobook.

The Best Thing About This Book:
The conclusion and Jane's character growth.

Appropriate for a younger audience:

Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Setting/Imagery: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Ending: 4/5
Total Score:  17/25

1 comment:

  1. Got this from my book fairy so I can't wait to start. 17 points is just enough for me to say "OK time to start reading."


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