Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland (2007) (Bloomsbury)
Shannon Hale
Grade: C
Genre: chick lit
Source: own
Austenland: (1) Austenland
Romance RBC 2015: A book that became a film 

Thirty-something Jane Hayes has always had a slight obsession with all things Jane Austen-related, and her obsession has only intensified over time. Proud owner of all the books and DVDs of television and film adaptations alike, Jane has modelled her perfect man on none other than Mr Darcy (the Colin Firth version, of course), meaning that all her boyfriends have never quite lived up to her expectations. When a wealthy aunt leaves Jane an all-expenses-paid-for three-week trip to English countryside retreat ‘Austenland’ in her will, where visitors immerse themselves into nineteenth century living, Jane can’t say no. Jane sees this as her opportunity to get her final fill of Jane Austen and close the door on her unattainable fantasies, but will this trip give Jane the closure she wants, or could she possibly get a Mr Darcy of her own?

This is the second Austen-inspired novel I’ve read, though I’m more than aware of the plethora of literature that has been published in this field. I am a fan of the numerous screen adaptations, especially Emma. Until I read Death Comes to Pemberley at the beginning of this year, I had never really had much interest in these ‘spin-off’ books and to be honest, they still don’t hold very much appeal for me.

Austenland was really amusing at times: each chapter ended (or started?) with an anecdote about one of Jane’s ex-boyfriends and how their relationship (or lack of) broke down, or failed to start at all. It’s hilarious and keeps the tone really light-hearted, which is exactly what this book is all about. Jane’s time at Pembroke Park is all about embracing the Austen-lifestyle and naturally, Jane has a fun time acclimatising to wearing corsets, dresses with empire waits and getting used to the slow, countryside way of life. It’s really fun watching as the professionals at Pembroke Park act as if everything is real.

This was slow at times and I didn’t really think very much of the overall direction of the plot – it was very anti-climatic and uneventful. But the main thing is that this was a fun read, great for passing the time by and getting an Austen fix. I see that this has been made into a film which I’m actually quite tempted to watch. I’m more than happy sitting down for a few hours to watch a re-make of an Austen novel or a derivative of such, but I think I’ll be steering clear of the books for a while. 

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

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