Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Monday, June 3, 2013
Austenland (Austenland, #1)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Age Group: Adult
Series: Austenland #1
Source: Library
Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man—perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? 
Summary from Riffle. 
Shannon Hale is one of those authors I really like, despite only having read a few of her books. Since I'm now venturing into the Big Scary World of Adult Books (a place I've ventured before but will now be visiting more regularly), I figured a Hale book with a Jane Austen theme would be a good place to start. And Austenland was a very fun read indeed.

It's one of those books that you can see as a movie with Ginnifer Goodwin or Reese Witherspoon. Hale's writing style is addictive and the chapters are short, making this an easy breezy read. Austenland has all the romantic fun and quick banter an Austen fan craves, just with more make out scenes and, admittedly, a lot less depth. What you expect is, essentially, what you get from this novel.

The supporting cast is amusing, if superficial. The reader doesn't get to see much of them, but it's not as if Jane gets very close with anyone, with the exception of her love interests. Jane is at a point in her life where she's stuck: She's in a career she likes but doesn't love and is dealing with the whiplash of a string of failed relationships. (These relationships are relayed at the beginning of chapters, which was a formatting decision that just added to Austenland's readability. But I digress.) Her constant inner battle with herself in the beginning of her stay at Austenland is necessary for her character development, but a bit frustrating to read about. Once Jane dives into Pemberly Park wholeheartedly, I was able to really get into the story, but her wishy washiness in the beginning makes the plot stagnant in the first part.

The correlation to Pride and Prejudice is easy to spot, but Hale executes it very well. I suppose you could argue that there's a love triangle, but that label really doesn't seem to fit. If anything, it's an unconventional one, and it does relate back to P&P. At one point I wasn't sure who Jane would end up with, even though I expected it to be clear and predictable. In that respect, I was gladly mistaken. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that I'm glad that Jane ended up with whom she did.

But that's actually the one thing that's been irking me about Austenland. Hale does show that Jane has to find herself before she can be in a relationship, but why isn't that enough? Why can't a contemporary romance end with the protagonist single and happy with herself? For a story that was a relatively light read, it left me with some heavier questions.
*3 stars*
Other books by Shannon Hale: Book of a Thousand Days, Princess Academy, Princess Academy
Do you feel that many books glorify romantic relationships?


  1. I do wonder if that would just be too much of a disappointment to readers who expect the whole romance to tidy itself up at the end... just like a real Austen novel...? I am kind of a hopeless romantic and feminist so those two aspects of my personality sometimes do dire battle. I can see where the uneasy feeling springs from.

  2. I bought this a while ago and haven't got around to it yet. It sounds like a good read but I am in total agreement with you, why can't she be happy and content and single, I get that a happy ending is expected but why does that only come with another person? Great review!!

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