Saturday, August 18, 2012

Book Review: "Austenland"

"Austenland" by Shannon Hale
First published in 2007
196 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5
(image source)

Jane Hayes is a New York City graphic designer in her early 30s, dramatically unlucky in love and suffering from a gradual onset of Jane Austen-obsession. Jane becomes convinced that swoon-worthy gentleman Mr. Darcy of "Pride and Prejudice" is the only man for her -- except that Mr. Darcy is fictional and no real man can ever live up to her Mr. Darcy standard.

But Jane gets a chance to live in Regency England and play out her Mr. Darcy fantasies when her great-aunt dies and, in her will, leaves Jane prepaid trip to Austenland. Set in the idyllic English countryside, Austenland is theme park of sorts that provides a full immersion into Jane Austen's 1800s England, complete with actors, period clothing and Regency-era social etiquette.

Jane decides to accept her aunt's last gift for a three-week stay at Austenland in hopes that living her fantasy will finally help her kick her Mr. Darcy dream. But as Jane, clad in a corset and a bonnet, plays her part, she begins to question who the real Jane is, what real love is and whether she can really be free of Mr. Darcy once and for all.

This short little novel was a fun, charming read sure to be enjoyed by any Jane Austen fan. While it didn't completely enthrall me, it was a nice break from the intense page-turners I've read recently like "Gone Girl" and "Fifty Shades Darker." According to Shannon Hale's website, "Austenland" has been made into a movie starting Keri Russell, though the release date is still forthcoming. There's a sequel to "Austenland" and the book sounds like it has a lot more substance and even a bit of mystery involved; I'll have to add "Midnight in Austenland" to my reading list.

Happy reading!

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