Sunday, 25 September 2011

Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

For me, Austenland can be summed up in the wise words of 30 Rock's Liz Lemon: "I want to go to there."

From the beautiful, Regency-style house (fitted out with modern-style conveniences, of course) to the gents in boots and breeches, Pembrook Park, where the book is set, is an Austen fan's wet dream. Which is why Jane, the heroine, ends up there - her great-aunt, aware of her secret obsession with all things Pride and Prejudice (and, more particularly, Colin Firth), bequeaths her a holiday to the place that houses an Austen-inspired role play game on 'roids. Jane reluctantly goes, in an attempt to purge herself of her Darcy obsession once and for all.

While the book is super fun and the characters are all likable enough, this motivation - central to the plot - let it down a bit. It's never firmly established what exactly is so wrong about Jane's Darcy obsession; brief glimpses into her past relationships show how she always compares guys to Darcy and ends up miserable for it, but Jane's reasoning for doing this is never explored. Perhaps this is because there seems to be the assumption that anybody interested in reading Austenland would understand this behaviour, but I question how many real women actually find their love for Mr Darcy detrimental to their lives. Sure, I love me a fictional guy as much as the next girl, and joke about how Darcy and Disney have forever ruined me for men, but when it comes down to it, the worst consequence I've had to deal with is the very occasional whinge to my fiance, in the form of "whyyyyyyyyy can't you save my skanky sister (that I don't have)/kiss me passionately despite it setting your throat on fire (although it really doesn't)/climb a Ferris wheel (when that would really give me a heart attack)/[insert grand gesture here]." In other words, fictional men have no real impact on my life, other than providing a lot of fun (though if Darcy asks, I didn't say that, 'kay?). And maybe I'm being harsh, but I question the, er, mental stability of anybody who takes it more seriously than that. So I found it hard to believe in Jane, or relate to her, in that respect.

But, though my rant may have you believe otherwise, all this didn't majorly impact on my enjoyment of the book. It was minorly annoying, sure, but I was able to push that aside and go along for the ride. A ride that was made all the more exciting by two rather swoon-worthy men (natch) and an array of amusing and sharply-drawn secondary characters. Not to mention a pretty setting, a few unexpected plot twists and good dollop of romance. It made me smile, which is exactly what I wanted it to do.

Rating: 4/5

Eye Candy
I knew they were making an Austenland movie, but I'm kind of glad I didn't look up the cast before I read the book, because it's totally not how I pictured it (except maybe for Jennifer Coolidge as the ridiculous Miss Charming). Here's who I "cast"...

Reese Witherspoon as the Darcy-obsessed Jane
Elliot Cowan as the Darcy-esque Mr Nobley

Michael Fassbender as the Darcy-antithesis, Martin
Fine Print
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2007
Publisher: Bloomsbury


  1. ZOMG! I'm loving that picture of Michael Fassbender. Yummy.

    I didn't know they were making Austenland into a movie, but I hope it turns good.

    And super fun rant. I didn't think about it before, but I'm kind of ruined forever because of Disney characters too!

  2. I think I really need to read this book. Loved the rant, but eh... not into Disney other than the animation. Hm... talk about a fictional man! LOL

  3. @Missie - I'm waiting for his pants to slip down :D

    @Melissa - Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid was my first love *sigh*

  4. Yaar, this book is totally on my Amazon Wishlist now. Gonna order it when I get paid. :D

  5. After reading your review, I immediately read the book and boom, finished it seconds ago. I think it was just fitting to comment here and say thanks. I enjoyed the book though I have to re-read the airport bits because I think the conclusion came a bit too fast that I need time to let it sink in. Haha. Thanks for the review! :D I think I'm gonna be on a Jane Austen-themed books marathon now. Haha!

    1. Wow, so glad you enjoyed it! An Austen-themed marathon sounds awesome :)