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?
Following a series of dramatic and gut wrenching novels, I was starting to feel like my blog was becoming work. I decided to read Austenland to give myself a small break from the death, self-destruction, broken hearts, drug addictions and violence I so typically find myself reading. Reemerging a few days later, I felt like anyone taking a vacation – I didn’t want to leave.
Austenland was a surprisingly empowering read. Jane, the main character, starts out as this annoyingly introverted fan girl who hides from real life in a fictitious world provided by Jane Austen. However, after her vacation of pretend at Pembrook, she becomes an independent woman demanding sincerity and unconditional love from her real-life relationships. The book, in its simplicity, manages to transform the unlikely love story between two people role-playing in a dreamland of Austen-like appearance, into a tale of self-realization and transformation. While the novel itself is written as a fun and lighthearted affair, in the end it sneaks up on the reader and delivers a well aimed blow to the heart.
As I continued to digest this book, I was able to draw parallels between various characters in Austenland and Pride and Prejudice. I’m positive Pride and Prejudice is not the only work of Jane Austen to make an appearance in Shannon Hale’s Austenland, but I have yet to read all books for my lifetime. It is certain Austenland will make a reappearance in my “To Be Read” list for years to come.
As always, Happy Reading!
P.S. I’m working on a rating system for my reviews. I will be updating all past reviews once I have my system in place. 🙂