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Shannon Hale – Austenland

November 3, 2008

128. Austenland by Shannon Hale (2007)

Length: 197 pages

Genre: Chick Lit; Romance

Started: 18 October 2008, sometime after 4 p.m.
Finished: 18 October 2008, sometime before 6 p.m.

Want to find your own
real-life Mr. Darcy? Come
visit Austenland!

Summary: Jayne Hayes has a crush on Colin Firth-as-Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – and really, who doesn’t? The problem is that she’s become so fixated on Mr. Darcy that none of her real-life boyfriends can measure up. When a great-aunt’s will leaves Jane an all-expenses-paid trip to Pembrook Park – an Austen-themed vacation resort – Jane decides to go, hoping that spending three weeks living in Austen’s world will help her to shake her Mr. Darcy obsession for once and for all. And there are no shortage of eligible bachelors, it turns out: there’s Mr. Nobley, the Darcy-like actor she suspects has been hired to woo her during her stay, and then there’s Martin – the handsome man who’s playing Tom the gardener, but who breaks character long enough to flirt with Jane. But the longer she stays, the harder it becomes to disentangle games from reality – where does the acting end and real feelings – hers and the men’s – begin?

Review: I don’t read a lot of chick lit, in large part because I tend to find it unbelievable and therefore somewhat annoying. Mainly, I don’t hang out with any actual women who are like the chick-lit protagonists I’ve encountered (probably because I would find them annoying), so I can’t really empathize with them and their horribly contrived romantic problems and eventual solutions. The great thing about Austenland was that it was still enjoyable, even though I found Jane to be somewhat unbelievable (a crush on Mr. Darcy actually ruining real-life relationships? Does this sort of thing happen to real people?) and not particularly sympathetic (see previous). Nevertheless, I had fun reading this book and watching Jane stumble through being clueless about one relationship after another. Perhaps it’s because there’s a small part of me that always wondered what it would be like to be an Austen heroine (a part that I imagine exists in most women who read Austen). I also thought Hale did a very good job at keeping the tone light and funny, and used parenthetical asides and quips to great effect – a writing style which I’ve seen get out of control in the hands of other chick-lit writers. In all, while this book is not a literary masterpiece by any means, it was thoroughly quick, fun, and engrossing, and blended the inevitable chick-lit-y-ness with enough Austen-ian atmosphere and wit to make it palatable. Also, no stilettos, shopping bags, or lipstick on the cover, so: bonus points! 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Good chick-lit for people who aren’t really fans of the genre, but enjoy BBC period dramas. It’d be an excellent read for an airplane, beach, sick day, or anytime that you want something to hold your interest without requiring too much of your brain.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Shannon Hale’s website

Other Reviews: Savvy Verse & Wit, Ticket to Anywhere, Not Another Mom, Stephanie’s Written Word
Did I miss your review? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2008 7:20 am

    I don’t read a lot of chick lit, but sometimes I need a mindless read.

  2. November 3, 2008 10:48 am

    bermudaonion – I’m right there with you. This was great during the read-a-thon – not too much concentration required!

  3. November 3, 2008 12:58 pm

    Wow! I didn’t realize this was so short. I have heard a lot of praise about this one, but since chick lit isn’t my genre of choice I have been putting it off. I appreciate your honesty about the genre and that’s helped put this one into perspective. Maybe a quiet rainy day read (or sounds like it was perfect for the read-a-thon).

    Not sure what the draw is to unbelievable characters such as the ones typically found in chick-lit??? I get really annoyed with them as well.

  4. November 3, 2008 3:10 pm

    Most of the books in this genre are unbelievable. They’re just comfort, feel-good type of books that probably won’t register in my head as soon as I put them down. This one sounds better than most of the other P&P-inspired novels.

  5. November 3, 2008 3:38 pm

    I don’t read that much chick lit either but I enjoyed this one. I think it would make a fun movie. Having met Shannon Hale a couple of times, I think I will like everything that she writes.

  6. November 3, 2008 4:06 pm

    I really liked that book a lot even though the main character is bumbling around because of her obsession with Darcy.

  7. November 3, 2008 4:28 pm

    Trish – I had no idea it was so short either; I was pretty surprised when it turned up in the mail! I think this book would be perfect for a day when you’re sick, tired, hungover, or expected to read for 24 hours in a row. :) Basically, any time that you’d put the A&E Pride & Prejudice into the DVD player.

    Matthew – I haven’t read any of the other P&P spin-offs/sequels, but your description of this as a “comfort” book is spot-on.

    Natasha – Oh, it would make a fun movie! In my head, Martin/Tom the gardener was already being played by Paul Bettany.

    serena – It’s weird, this book contained a bunch of elements that would usually annoy me, but I still wound up enjoying it!

  8. jessidee permalink
    November 3, 2008 4:53 pm

    Now I REALLY need to find a copy of this book. I agree with you about most chick lit; I find the protagonists to be annoying and unrealistic. Sounds like a good read! :)

  9. November 3, 2008 8:47 pm

    Nicki, I was so suprised when this popped up in my Google Reader because, yeah, you don’t read much chick lit.

    Does this happen in real life? Um, let’s hope not! I do know a married woman who refuses to read anything even slightly ‘romantic’ because it makes her intolerant of her obviously un-romantic husband :)

  10. November 3, 2008 8:56 pm

    Colin Firth=yum! LOL Seriously, it’s good to know this is not the usual chick lit. Sounds interesting, and I have no idea why, but I’m drawn to these Jane Austen spin-off type books.

  11. November 4, 2008 6:13 am

    I had a very short chick lit phase a few years ago but don’t really read them anymore. What you say about the ridiculous, unbelievable heroines is so true. I just got this last week though and I’m looking forward to reading it when I want something fun and light.

  12. November 4, 2008 9:58 am

    Jessidee – Keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway later this week!

    Shana – Heh, maybe she should be reading those “romantic” books *with* her husband?

    Anna – I am too, even though I (shame!) haven’t actually read that much Austen.

    tanabata – I think that this book escapes the implausibility of most chick lit by putting the heroine in a purposefully implausible and surreal situation… maybe once we’ve suspended our disbelief far enough to accept the existence of a Jane Austen themed immersion resort, we’re okay with stretching a little bit further to accept the heroine as real?

  13. November 4, 2008 7:54 pm

    I read this one back in the spring http://thewrittenword.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/austenland-frontier-house/ and really enjoyed it. I think you can look on Shannon Hale’s website and read some alternate endings to the book (although the ending was one of my favorite parts)!

  14. November 5, 2008 10:47 am

    Stephanie – I added your link to the other reviews section. Thanks also for pointing me to Shannon’s website – that’s so cool!

  15. November 5, 2008 5:04 pm

    You mentioned the readathon … I’m hoping to join the next one, in April, so I’ll keep this on my list for then.

    Love your “extra points” for no stilettos, shopping bags or liptick on the cover art!

  16. November 5, 2008 8:15 pm

    Dawn – It was excellent for the read-a-thon: easy reading, and super-short, so it felt like I’d accomplished something.

  17. November 5, 2008 9:51 pm

    Okay. I’m not going to pretend I couldn’t put this one down. I don’t hardly read chick lit at all, but this read like a chick flick (which I DO like, go figure)

  18. November 6, 2008 2:58 pm

    Corinne – I’m very variable when it comes to chick flicks… sometimes I’m in the mood for them and that’s all I can handle watching, and sometimes I find them as annoying and unrealistic as their book counterparts.

Trackbacks

  1. Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale: The Sunday Salon Review « Austenprose

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