Monday, August 31, 2009

Review: Austenland

Summary: 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? -- Bloonmsbury


When I signed up to participate in the Everything Austen Challenge, I wasn't quite sure what six books/movies that I would eventually review; however, I did know that I definitely wanted to include AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale. I had heard many great things about this novel, and the challenge was exactly the excuse I needed to pick it up.

I have to give a big thanks to Stephanie for hosting this challenge because I am not someone who has read much Jane Austen -- I have only read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE YEARS and that was years ago. My intent with this challenge was to read at least one of Jane Austen's books while also reading some of the contemporary fiction ones that I seem to be drawn to. So far, I have really enjoyed both of the books that I've read for this challenge (RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and AUSTENLAND;) however, you clearly see that I am still shying away from the real deal! Although I think that I am getting closer!

I thoroughly enjoyed AUSTENLAND, and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a light, fun story. AUSTENLAND is rather short (under 200 pages) and it's a very easy read that is also very funny! I actually read it in one sitting. I thought the premise of the novel was extremely cute. Jane, a 30 something woman in New York, has had terrible luck with relationships -- partly because no man can live up to her idea of Mr. Darcy. When her great aunt wills her a vacation to an English resort that re-creates the Regency era, she gets to live out her dream and has the opportunity to meet the "perfect" gentleman. While she is on this three week vacation, she reflects on her past and ends up discovering a lot about herself. This self-awareness allows Jane to experience men and love on an entirely new level!

I thought Jane was a terrific character. Even though (or maybe because) she was a little quirky, I couldn't help but like her. Her honestly and self-deprecating humor were so refreshing and actually made the book so funny. I loved her insight into her life (and everyone else's), and I thought her reactions to the various characters was hilarious. She was just one of those characters that you rooted for -- I really wanted her to fall in love and live happily ever after.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this book were the brief descriptions of Jane's past boyfriends that appeared at the beginnings of some chapters. They were kind of like the icing on the cake for me. I found myself laughing (a lot) as I read them. From the little boy who was her first kiss to the boy who ended up snorting, I thought all of these stories gave some perspective into Jane and her issues with guys. I think any woman who has ever experienced the whole dating scene will appreciate these little snippets.

So if you are participating in the Everything Austen Challenge or are a Jane Austen fan, I highly recommend reading AUSTENLAND. (Actually, I think even if you're not a fan of Ms. Austen's books, you'll still enjoy this one.) It's a cute book that won't disappoint.

Note: This is the first book that I've read by Ms. Hale, and I definitely appreciated her writing. I have heard that she has written some fabulous books, and I can't wait to read some more of them! Does anyone have any recommendations for me?

15 comments:

bibliophile23 said...

I would recommend The Actor and the Housewife. It is about a Mormon housewife and a Hollywood actor that form this really adorable friendship. I highly recommend it.

Great review and I hope you enjoy the Austens when you get to them.

Grace

mountainsofbooks said...

I'd recommend Princess Academy. It's a YA novel, but I bet it'll be a classic in years to come.

bermudaonion said...

I knew you'd get this read before I did! As you know, I bought it not long ago. After your review, I want to read it right now.

Beth F said...

I thought this was a really fun book -- light and entertaining. I haven't read anymore by Hale, but I plan to.

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I finished this book on Saturday for the same challenge. I must have read a different book. I thought it was just plain silly. But, I also read The Actor and the Housewife, which I thought was absolutely dreadful (sorry bibliophle23) -- so maybe I was anticipating/expecting the worst. I've heard her YA fiction is much better than her adult fiction. I'm still waiting to be won over by Shannon Hale.

Laura's Reviews said...

I liked this book too. It was a quick fun read!

ibeeeg said...

Yep...I liked the book as it was a fun, quick and easy read. Gotta have those type of reads at times.

I,as well, enjoyed the brief descriptions of Jane's past boyfriends...spoke volumes of her search.

I tried one other book (besides P&P) by Austen, Emma, and did not enjoy it. I thought I would since I love P&P but alas, I did not. However, I am going go forward and try two other books...I am so hoping I like them. Good luck on reading the "real deal". Hope you enjoy the read.

Kim said...

I recently read The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen -- a must for the JA challenge. So enjoyed it!

Shannon said...

I read this book about a year ago... and enjoyed it, as well. I agree... it's a fun, quick read and won't disappoint any Austen fan!

Kristen said...

I enjoyed this one (I like light and flirty) as well as The Actor and the Housewife. But Hale is better known for her middle grade fiction so if you go that route, you can share her with your daughter.

hmsgofita said...

It was definitely light and funny, but I just wanted some more meat to this book. I just thought the ending was a bit too trite and predictable...just me though. Glad you enjoyed it. I'm reading The Princess Academy and am really liking it so far.

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed Austenland. I too thought it was a really fun book!!

I've read a number of Hale's novels and really love The Goose Girl and The Book of a Thousand Days.

S. Krishna said...

I enjoyed this one as well. I've heard great things about The Actor and the Housewife, it's pretty high on my TBR list!

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this book as well. Glad to see it made you smile.

Audrey said...

Goose Girl, Enna Burning,River Secrets, Forest Born, Princess Academy...Gotta Love Shannon Hale's books!!! I've only read her YA novels, as you can see, but I might have to try Austenland.