Monday, March 31, 2008

Austenland - Shannon Hale

I was really curious about this book. Having been on an Austen mood lately (books, movies, TV series...) I thought this was probably a really fun and entertaining book.

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?

So Jane goes on her vacation but from the beginning it is clear that she doesn't feel she belongs there. She keeps analysing everything and everyone and naturally that prevents her from fully enjoying the fantasy. Then we start to discover that the fantasy is not as innocent as at first it seemed. In fact all the guests are women, living as Austen's characters, but the men are all actors paid to play the part... and something more the guests might want. I thought that was weird, nothing could farther away from an Austen fantasy than that. Even when Jane believes she is falling for the gardener she later finds out he is nothing more than another actor. I definitely didn't like this side of the story... I was expecting a serious re-enactment by all players involved and although everything seemed like a serious recreation this aspect of things ruined it for me.

Jane was actually a nice character and she deserved better than the two suitors she finds here. One seemed a regular good guy but in the end it was a lie and another was Mr Darcy's reincarnation that ended up deciding to take fate in his own hands. That might have worked but she rushed the ending. The story was flowing and suddenly it's like she decided to end the book in 2 or 3 pages. Very weird!

Grade: C+

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