Shannon Hale – Austenland
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
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.
Links: Shannon Hale’s website
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.