Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Review of 'Austenland' by Shannon Hale

"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.  But when a wealthy relative bequeaths to her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, Jane's fantasies 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?  

In this addictive, charming, and compassionate story, Shannon Hale brings out the Jane Austen obsessive in all of us."

This is one of the books that I had to read for my Pride and Prejudice-themed Lit Theory class last semester.  It was a good fit with the class's theme, but it definitely wasn't on the same level as some of the books we were reading.

After reading the original Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, it was really hard to like most of the spin-offs of the book.  Austenland was no exception.  What frustrated my class and I the most was that it was a very shallow book to read.  If you aimed to dig beneath the surface, you didn't have far to go before hitting the core of the book.  This made it really hard to write even a one-page reflection on the book, much less even consider writing our 10-12 page research papers on the book.

While this may not have been a good book to use for a course intended for those entering the English major/minor, this is, however, a light enough read that one might want to take it on vacation with them.  If you're looking to finish a book, not be challenged too much, and enjoy a little Darcy-ness without actually reading Pride and Prejudice, this could be the book for you.

I do like the idea of having a place like Pembrook Park to visit, but it's strange to me that guests would stay there for weeks at a time indulging in this Jane Austen experience.  I'd definitely like to visit for a day or two, however.  Since this is an experience that I don't especially care to have myself, it's nice to read about this experience through Jane, an extreme Pride and Prejudice nut and one who is completely addicted to Darcy (I don't really understand the attraction, personally, but I also wrote an 11-12 page research paper about why Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are a coupling that doesn't work).

One thing that bothered me was how every loose end about the book was tied up at the end.  I finished and I just had this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Some of the loose ends were just too perfectly tied-up, it felt like.  For example, when Henry (Mr. Nobley) comes onto the plane and when Jane asks him why he was speaking as perfectly as he did back in Austenland, he explains that he was hired because he was similar to his character in real life.  What?  No one speaks that way any more.  Even when he allows contractions in his speech, it's still so formal and forced and completely out of Austenland.  I don't blame Jane for not trusting him.  I would have left him at the airport upon landing in New York.  But instead of saying no as she originally said before getting on the plane (by the way, how is Mr. Nobley able to buy a plane ticket on the exact flight minutes before take-off?  It's uncanny), she accepts him and starts a relationship with him.  Grr... for once, I need a version of Pride and Prejudice to end with the lady character saying no and leaving it at that.  I want her to discover her own worth and be okay with that.  A partner will find their way into her life one way or another and then she will be ready for them.  Someone please write that Jane Austen fan fiction, if they haven't already... I don't need another sad and pathetic female character.

This was a nice book to finish up while I'm here on break with no homework to speak of, but I don't think that I'll be reading it again any time soon.

I give Austenland:
Thanks for Reading!



  1. Terrific book review! I want to read this sometime next semester when I don't have too many things to do. I still envy not taking your lit theory class. Can you send me a copy of your paper on the coupling of Darcy and Elizabeth? It sounds really interesting!

    1. Thanks, PaChia!
      And yes, I'd be happy to send you my paper!


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