Friday, August 9, 2013

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Pages: 208
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
My rating: 4 stars
Goodreads rating: 3.46 stars
Published: May 29, 2007


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?

As a lover of most things Austen, this has been on my to read list for a while, and on my physical shelf for a little while.  I wish I would have picked this up sooner!  This review might be a little all over the place because 1} I both listen to this book on CD and read it when I had the time/hands free from little D, and 2} that's kind of just how my brain works right now with so little sleep and no caffeine.

Jane Hayes is a loveable, relatable character, possibly because I too fell in love with Colin Firth's portrayal of the beloved Mr Darcy.  {Yes, I had the 6 VHS tape set from years ago, as well as the DVDs.  Mine, however, are not hidden in a house plant.}  Her trip to "Austenland" is probably something almost any Austen fan would love, and it sounds as wonderful and surreal to the reader as it does to Jane when she gets there.  Three weeks of living in Pembrook Park?  Yes, please!  After a while, though, we begin to see how uneventful it really can be living in the Regency-era.  Sitting around all day waiting for people to call on you?  Not being able to just take a stroll with your gentleman friends?  Stitching all. day. long.  {Don't get me wrong, I love reading and cross stitching.  A lot.  I just don't think I would want to do it day in and day out!}  The Regency era can quickly lose its Austen-lovers in the dullness of the every day.

The author, however, does a good job at engaging her readers.  While the Regency era may not be as high-paced and glamorous as we think it is with reading some of Austen's works and watching their movie adaptations, a modern woman living the Regency-era life is very interesting.  Especially when we get to read her thoughts on different aspects of it!  And the story slightly mirrors some favorite Austen works, which makes me like it even more.  Like a lot of Austen's works, Jane {and the reader} is introduced to a few different gentlemen, all of whom are looked at as "potential suiters" for Jane's stay at Pembrook Park.

I really don't want to give too much away, as this was a great read and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.  So, go to your local library/book store and pick up a copy of Austenland.  And tell me what you think of it!

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