Book info

Austenland (2007)

Austenland (2007)
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Rating
3.51 of 5 Votes: 4
ISBN
1596912855 (ISBN13: 9781596912854)
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English
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publisher
bloomsbury usa
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Austenland (2007)
Austenland (2007)

About book: I can't believe I just gave one star to a Shannon Hale book. Never thought that would happen.Review originally posted here.I really like Shannon Hale's books. And I love Jane Austen. It has taken me this long to get around to reading Shannon Hale's Austenland because I had a suspicion I might be disappointed. The book is a light quick read perfect for summer reading. If you are fan of romantic comedy, either in chick lit or chick flick form, then you might enjoy it. If you are a Jane Austen fan....it is going to depend on what type of Jane Austen fan you are. If you are in the camp that loves her books (and more than the books the period movie adaptations of them) because they are Regency romances that are historical chick lit (or flicks) then you might also enjoy this. Neither of these things being true about me, I didn't. In fact I have some rather major issues with it. I almost feel bad about this because I do really really like Shannon Hale's other books. I almost wasn't going to write a review I felt so bad, but I have been stewing over this for a couple of days and just want to get some of it off my chest.I had issues with Jane. The same issues I have with all of the similar characters to her that seem to be cropping up more and more in this type of book or movie. Jane is a single successful woman with a career and life (sort of) in New York City. Yet she is a mess because she is a desperate husband hungry crazy girl. Why do women keep getting portrayed like this? We are meant to believe that these girls are savvy enough to graduate from college, secure a job, keep a job, live within their means in a large metropolis and yet they can't wear high heels without (at some point) falling over on their bottoms? (How many times is that shtick going to be used????) I have big problems with the whole idea that a woman can not be content and completely free of desperation if she doesn't have a boyfriend/husband. Each chapter of this book is introduced with a history of one of Jane's failed relationships. These highlight exactly how crazy desperate she is for this kind of relationship. Of course they have all failed. Men tend to run screaming scared from crazy women.Irony: Jane is exactly the sort of woman Jane Austen was making fun with her books. Because that is what her books are, not romantic frolics in period gowns, but social satires. At first I thought maybe the irony was intentional. And it may have been, but it fell fall short of its mark if it was. There is one point when Jane has an epiphany and realizes that she is not Elizabeth Bennet, but more like Mrs. Bennet. I expected things to turn around maybe, and that she would become more than she was, but the change that occurred wasn't one that had me believing in its longevity. While the Jane that leaves Austenland has more confidence and has convinced herself she was not looking for a Mr. Darcy duplicate, she never convinced me she was cured. In fact, the end makes it abundantly clear that she's not. More confident, less desperate, but given where she started she still has a long way to go. Except she got her storybook ending, so where is the motivation to grow? It was so frustrating.The frustration was probably greater for me because I know Shannon Hale can write strong female characters better than this. The girls in her Books of Bayern: amazing. Same goes for the girls in Princess Academy. Actually, Shannon Hale can just write better than this period. Honestly, if someone gave me this book to read without telling me who wrote it I never would have believed it to be Shannon Hale.

I was so engrossed in this book I read it in an afternoon. If I were still a teenager, this would be the book I'd read over and over.I hate this book. SPOILER ALERTWhy? I mean, if it was so engrossing that I couldn't put it down, why do I hate it? Because Jane Hayes, the main character, is me except that she gets to live out my fantasy and gets the happy ending only found in Austen novels.Jane is in her early 30s, in a job she likes but does not love, convinced she must embrace her spinsterhood. So far, so good. I relate completely. Her secret vice is Pride and Prejudice (more the BBC movie than the novel) and she is in love with Mr. Darcy. For me, it's more Rhett Butler, but the implication is there. A great-aunt spots this fantasy and bequeaths to Jane a three-week stay at Austenland, a resort in England where people live like characters in an Austen novel. I have always thought I was born in the wrong century; this vacation would be a dream for me. Jane gets to live out her fantasy and deal with her obsession of Mr. Darcy. I get to read about it.Okay, differences: Jane is beautiful; she turns heads. At the beginning each chapter, a synopsis is given of each of Jane's ex-boyfriends. There are 13. Plus her "first love" (at age four) and three other "Guys". If I were the main character, there couldn't be so many chapters; only First Love, Boyfriend #6, Guy Between #6 and 7, #7, #10, and maybe Guy After #12 would work in my story (read the book: you'll get how sad that is). Jane makes out with the gardner, attracts the men at Pembroke...it's all very ideal. Without the same finesse and fine writing of Austen, (this book really qualifies as chicklit, not fine literature) Shannon Hale does echo an Austen-like story. Underlying commentary on the absurdity of relationships and women's fantasy loves are clear. But the end is so inevitable and apparent you hope for a surprise twist. She gets her guy in the end, just like in Pride and Prejudice.So why do I hate it? Jane Hayes goes to Austenland hoping to rid herself of the dream that one day she'll meet her Mr. Darcy and be swept off her feet. I really hoped this book would put to rest the romantic ideal I and many other women harbour. That finally there would be a book where the heroine found happiness without a man. Instead, this book perpetuates the dream. To a 'tee'.And I have to return to the real world.
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Reviews
Annalisa
Sometimes after sitting on a book, I forget the minor details that bothered me and like a novel more. So I'm changing my review...The story is cheesy and light-hearted about a girl, Jane, who inherits a vacation to a resort set in 19th century England and sets out to conquer her obsession with Mr. Darcy and embrace her inevitable spinster doom.What I liked about this book: it was a fun, quick read. I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue, especially the narrator's self-mocking tone. I enjoyed the story and related to the Jane's reserve about jumping into love. Since I too am a Pride & Prejudice fan, I enjoyed the references and correlation to Jane Austen and her style of writing. What I loved most about this book is I could see Shannon Hale in the protagonist. Of all her books, I believe this character with her light-hearted, funny spirit is most like her and I felt as if I were getting a glimpse at her.What I didn't like about this book: the ending. Sure the happy Austenesque ending was right in character and I wouldn't want anything less. But the scene at the airport was a little much. I found myself rolling my eyes at the cheese heavily slapped on and the length of time it took to sort it all out. It put a damper on the story for me, but I get that this is what girls want and sometimes I'm just going to have to swallow some cheese. Although it isn't her best work, I think this may be my favorite of hers because it was so light hearted, more modern, and more of an adult audience. So I'm upping my stars. Because I did really like. And if I passed this book again, I just may pick it up and read it again.
Lucy
I am a Pride and Prejudice snob. I only like the BBC version, with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett. While there are parts of the newer, shorter, harried, and nuance free Hollywood version I enjoy, like the supposed-to-be-prettiest-sister Jane, who is actually much prettier than the actress in the BBC version, every time I've watched it (which, I grant, is only twice), I feel angry afterwards. First, Kiera Knightly is NOT Elizabeth Bennett. Elizabeth Bennett does not smile a ridiculous smile showing her bottom teeth all the time. And she is not flat chested. I mean, come on....we're talking about the girl who woos Mr. Darcy. With those low-cut gowns in style, I'm guessing there was a little bit of oomph necessary to catch his eye. That and a pair of "fine eyes". Mostly, though, the entire movie is rushed. The actors spit out their lines in Gilmore Girls fashion, important scenes are entirely cut out, and then two minutes are devoted to watching Kiera Knightly spin on a swing. Frustrating.Anyways, my point is (and I do have one), that there is only one good movie adaptation...and it's six hours long and only strays (and not really even strays, just leaves out a few minor details) slightly from the book. So, when the main character in Austenland, Jane, loved this movie as much as me, I knew I could appreciate her.32 year-old Jane, single and relationship challenged, is obsessed with Mr. Darcy...the dreamy Colin Firth who walks across his magnificent grounds in a wet shirt after diving into a pond (you know the scene). The Colin Firth...I mean Mr. Darcy, who beams at Elizabeth while she's turning pages for his sister, Georgiana, at the piano (you know this scene too). After her rich great aunt comes to visit her, and subsequently finds her two-disc DVDs hidden behind a houseplant, Jane is surprised when she receives a call following her aunt's death from the probate attorney. Instead of money, her aunt leaves her an all expense paid for trip to an exclusive British resort, where Jane will spend three weeks living the Regency period lifestyle in an attempt to fulfill, and also hopefully expunge, her Darcy obsession.I found the beginning of this book to be annoying. Jane is too nervous and melodramatic and not all that likable. For starters, I have no idea why anyone would be ashamed of owning Pride and Prejudice. Houseplants? Please. I'm thinking of fashioning my set up with a chain and wearing it around my neck. See? I'm a true fan.However, the three weeks she spends at Pembrook Park, a Netherfield/Pemberly-esque manor with servants who can't speak to her, empire wasted gowns, gentleman that are actors (or are they?), turns about the room, walks on the grounds and a ball are simply fantastic. The situations are entertaining, the plot pleasantly twisty and the ending satisfying.Shannon Hale writes a light-hearted fantasy romance that is sure to please even the snobbiest Jane Austen fans. As a warning, do not expect a Jane Austen book. While Hale does a fair job mimicking some of the dialogue, the novel is thoroughly modern and much less subtle. It is a romance...therefore extremely unlikely to be true. Regardless, when I turned the last page, I had a smile on my face and said, out loud, "That was fun!"
Lynne Stringer
Having seen the movie first, I felt I was at an advantage, as I knew where the story was going; more or less, anyway. And interestingly enough, I think I prefer the movie version to the book. That doesn't happen often. It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book - the four star rating attests to that - but I think some of the changes they put in the movie made the story flow more effectively.That was only a minor thing, of course. I enjoyed Shannon Hale's style and the breezy way she wrote the hapless Jane, with whose obsession for Colin Firth's Mr Darcy I can surely relate. I liked experiencing her struggles to ditch the fantasy and try and find a real man, although I'm not sure the details of previous boyfriends, which started every chapter, were really necessary. Apart from that, though, it was thoroughly entertaining.
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