Austenland by Shannon Hale

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?

Original Language: English
Publisher: Bloomsbury Pub Plc USA
Country: USA
Publication Date: 2007
ISBN: 1596912855
Page Count: 208

Austenland is Shannon Hales first excursion into a Regency role playing holiday destination where everyone can (temporarily) find their own Mr Darcy. It's a new and exciting idea, but fails to live up to its real potential.

Jane is a boring protagonist. I can easily understand her obsession with all things Austen (especially Mr Darcy)  but I can't understand how ridiculous it makes her. It's one thing to compare men to Mr Darcy, it's a complete other thing to expect a Darcy clone - wouldn't that be boring? And where does her embarrassment of her Austen obsession come from? I'm proud of my collection and would never resort to hiding anything in a pot plant.

I got sick of her complaining about not being able to find the right man - it's not something that happens overnight...exactly. Her 'confusion' between' Martin and Henry was irritating and irrational. It was obvious her attraction to Henry was a reflection of the antagonistic relationship between Lizzy and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. The relationship between Jane and Martin is unrealistic, I can't stand how he treats her and how she reacts to him.

Speaking of which...the twists at the end (which I won't reveal in case others want to read it) comes from no where and adds nothing to the story. It just succeeds in making the cast, and the story, less likeable. I just can't stand Martin and there is no real character to Henry.

The world Hale creates in Pembrook Park is interesting and somewhat authentic - though Jane comments on a number of historical inaccuracies. The role playing seems like a fun, if not awkward, adventure and the characters are quite an endearing bunch - though Charming is as ridiculous and annoying a character as possible (anyone who says 'what what' more than once a book is an unsatisfactory character).

I am very disappointed by Austenland. I love re-exploring stories in new ways but Austenland had none of the special magic of Jane Austen.
Raiding Bookshelves Rating
Judging by the cover: The manor house is quite pretty and provides a nice contrast between the modern and regency eras. It's nice but not fantastic.


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