Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

With Austenland recently having been turned into a movie, that was recently screened at Sundance, I figured it was a great time to write a review of a book I read last year in my unfortunate non-bloggy phase. I don't know about you, but I'll definitely be looking forward to an opportunity to check out this movie!
Title: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale


Who Should Read It? Are you a Jane Austen fan? Fan of sappy, sweet, forbidden romance? Especially those that occur for a girl who is just plain bad at love? Ever thought you were in love with Mr. Darcy but keep inevitably falling for the wrong Mr. Wickham? Then maybe this book is for you! If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you!

What I Have to Say: I'll admit it. I'm a little bit in love with Mr. Darcy. I even have a necklace with an image of the fictional Mister Darcy, so that when I wear it, I can keep it close to my heart. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, or every time I watch one of the MANY video versions, I sob like crazy, especially when Mr. Darcy tells Lizzie "I love you, most ardently." I'm about to start crying right now, just thinking about it.

So you would think that a book about a fellow Austen lover, who goes to an amazing land where everything is Austen, would totally do it for me. And in many ways, it did. The Austenland Hale has created - yeah, I totally want to go there. There were some really awful seeming things about it, and, in many ways, I'm sure I would react the way that Jane did (you'll just have to read about that when you read the book). But in those awful things, Austenland remains true to the spirit of Pride and Prejudice, the spirit of 1816.

Really, I quite sympathized with Jane, even if I did somewhat understand how her obsession with Darcy and perfection left her a single New York "spinster" at the age of 33. Sometimes I wanted to punch her in the face or yell at her that she should do things differently, but still, throughout the book, I found myself rooting for her, hoping that she managed to either get over her obsession with perfection or find the man that would be "Mister Perfect" for her.

And then there's Hale's writing style. I've been a big fan of her in the past - I love the simplistic yet fantastical way that she presents things, the easy way her text flows smoothly from one idea into the next. Austenland was no different and, as it was the first time I'd read Shannon Hale in a while, it kind of felt like "coming home."

Now, while the style and the characters and even the idea of the book were very "Hale" esque, I sort of felt like the actual way the story played out wasn't. The characters didn't seem to really develop, and, aside from Jane, we never really got to know them, anyway. And then there's fact that Jane's dead Aunt sends her to Austenland as "therapy." I wished it would have worked that way for Jane, but I don't really get the feeling that she actually learned anything. She had so much opportunity for growth, and I just felt like she never took it. This made reading "Austenland" somewhat frustrating.

All this said, I'm somewhat wishy washy as to my overall feelings about the book. I loved it. I want to be single and go to Austenland. I want my own Mister Darcy! It has me dreaming that maybe such a place could exist! But then, I'm somewhat disappointed with the way Hale dealt with the world of possibilities. I'll still be reading Midnight in Austenland. No doubt!

Summary: 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 Prejudice. 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? Don't miss Shannon Hale's next book, Midnight in Austenland, a mystery set at Pemberly available in February, 2012.

Cover Story: Soooo cute! I love covers like this! Even if I didn't know this book were by Shannon Hale or Jane Austen themed, I would want to read it just for the cover!


The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I read this book ages ago so I don't remember much other than that I enjoyed it but I'm very interested to see how it was adapted to film-probably will love it like I do most things related to Austen!

Heather G. said...

The book was only so-so for me. Too formulaic for me. Didn't like the ending at all. But I did like the fantasy of it all. Austenland and the whole bit of wanting to find the right guy. I felt like she didn't quite get the romance down. She's usually a children's writer so that may be part of it for me, I don't know.

But the movie is HILARIOUS! I got to see it at Sundance just a couple of weeks ago and it was soooo funny. I felt the director really upped the content and made it watchable. So it'll be on my buying list once it's released on DVD. You'll love it!

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