Thursday, June 14, 2007


I have never quite understood how people can polish of a half gallon of ice cream or a whole pie in one sitting. Have they no restraint? Doesn’t their body revolt? However, as I was devouring Shannon Hale’s new book, Austenland, last night, I realized that I have no right to criticize. I am myself such a glutton, only my medium is books. I have been known to read for whole days at a time, taking breaks only to go to the bathroom and even then, the book comes with. Reading is one of the few things that will keep me up past my bewitching hour of 10:30. I have no self control when it comes to reading books.

Such was the case with Austenland. However as it is only 208 pages, I didn’t need to sacrifice work or sleep in order to finish it. From the books description:

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?

The premise was quite clever……an Austen immersion program to kick the habit. And of course, the actual writing was well done, typical of her other novels. The weakness of the book comes from the length of it--not enough time was spent developing the characters. To make relationships believable, you really need to make the characters believable and provide enough information about them. I am not sure we fully understood Jane, and she is the main character! Hale also characterized well the weirdness resulting from a modern day woman trying to immerse herself in Regency: the stir-craziness resulting from enforced in-activity, the love and hate relationship with the clothes, the awkwardness in relating to the actors. However, this too could have been expounded upon. So, yes it has its faults. But, I do not regret buying it, and I think it is a must read for all Austen-fanatics like myself. To read the first chapter, click here.

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