Thursday, October 15, 2009

Surprisingly wonderful

Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Genre: Chick Lit/Romance
Date Started: October 13, 2009
Date Finished: October 14, 2009

Rating: A+

Description from Barnes & Noble: 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 Predjudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer 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?

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I have to admit, I was a little nervous when I ordered this book. Considering my past experience with chick lit, and taking into account that Jane Austen is one of my all-time favorite authors, this book was a risk. Don't you just love it when risks pay off?

Austenland was such a breath of fresh air. Finally, a chick lit/romance with a main character who didn't whine constantly, several secondary characters with depth, and an awesome ending. And no smut! Perfect for me. Jane is a very likable character whose great aunt (hilarious scene-stealer) gives her a vacation to an estate in England where you go to live and breathe Austen. There she runs into several very interesting guests, as well as some pretty awesome "Regency" men. Most of the book deals with her struggle to balance both the world of pretend with the real world, and try to find love before the tension between the two causes her to break down completely.

The book also did justice to Austen and her world. References to all of her books are made, and Jane Hayes and her fellow guests each get to live a part of them. I loved Hale's descriptions of Jane's inner battle to immerse herself into this "Regency" vacation. It might have been easier for her if they actually removed all modern amenities. Hale's character notes how cell-phones, modern clothes, and American slang aren't allowed, but make-up, electricity, and indoor plumbing are.

If this book is a typical example of Hale's work, I can't wait to read more of her books. Especially since it left me yearning not only for more, but it also made me want to pick up the closest Austen novel and reread it. A+

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