- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (June 8, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596912863
- ISBN-13: 978-1596912861
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 902 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Austenland: A Novel Paperback – May 27, 2008
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Praise for "The Goose Girl" and Shannon Hale:
" In layer upon layer of detail a beautiful coming-of-age story emerges, a tale about learning to rescue yourself rather than falling accidentally into happily-ever-after. Hale uncovers her theme patiently and without preaching, focusing not on the moral but on the adventures her heroine must face in order to learn the lessons herself." -- "New York Times Book Review"""
" Shannon Hale is already, after only a few books, one of our best writers of fantasy. She is also one of those rare storytellers who can bring a jaded old reviewer like me to well-earned tears." -- Orson Scott Card
" I was completely beguiled...Hale's writing is beautiful, with a vivid eye for detail." -- Justine Picardie, "Telegraph """
About the Author
Shannon Hale is the author of four young adult novels published by Bloomsbury: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, and the Newbery Honor-winning, New York Times bestselling Princess Academy. She is at work on another novel, and she and her husband will together publish a graphic novel in 2008. They live with their son in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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That confession out of the way, there was actually enough difference between the book and the movie to keep me engaged throughout the reading.
I actually wish that they had done the start of the movie more like that start of the book, Jane not being a Colin Firth obsessed modern-day spinster. Also having her rediscovering her joy in painting while on vacation and deciding to change for herself and not for any of the guys was much more interesting.
Long story short, even if you've seen the movie the book is worth a read, and the humor still shine through.
Jane is a thirty-something New Yorker who has never been able to find a man who measured up to her idea of Mr. Darcy, as portrayed by Colin Firth in the BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice." In the book, an older relative discovers her secret passion and as part of her will bequeaths Jane an all-expenses-paid trip to the Austenland resort, a place called Pembrook Park. There with other female guests she is to be entertained by actors playing Regency characters, and have the chance to live out her fantasy of what life might have been like in early nineteenth century England.
Upon arrival at Pembrook Park, Jane is fitted up with a corset and empire waist gowns, and is asked to relinquish all modern devices for the duration of her stay. Jane manages to sneak in her cell phone but is otherwise on her own, given the name of Miss Jane Erstwhile, and asked to play the part of a less fortunate relative visiting her loving aunt Saffronia.
Although the men playing the Regency characters are handsome and interesting to interact with, Jane soon begins longing for something real. She understands that the gentlemen are actors who are actually paid to enjoy her company, which takes a lot of the fun out of it. Even though she has much witty banter with one Mr. Nobley, it's the attraction of someone who is truly himself which leads Jane into a clandestine relationship with Martin, Pembrook Park's gardener. When he breaks things off, Jane decides it's time to take charge of her own story and enjoy the rest of her time for what it is.
While sparks continue flying between Jane and Mr. Nobley, she can't be sure it's not because he's just a good actor. The characters go on to do very Austen-esque things, including putting on a theatrical and later dancing the night away at a ball on their final night. Before Jane goes home there is one final twist to shake up her perception of what is true and what is part of Austenland's manipulation of reality. Completely disillusioned, is there anything the man who has come to truly love her can do to convince her that he isn't playacting anymore?
In the end I have to say that, between the book and the movie, surprisingly I slightly preferred the movie version. The book did exactly what I hoped in fleshing out the characters and helping me understand them better, but the author had a somewhat scattered, forced writing style which remained unconvincing. If you really like the movie I'd say the book is worth looking into, while I'd recommend the movie for all Austen fans, especially ones who know how to enjoy life without taking themselves too seriously.
The story is about a woman (also) named Jane who is what we can only call a bumbler when it comes to relationships. She is bequeathed a three-week visit to Pembrook Park, the "Austenland" of the novel. It's a place where wealthy women of disparate ages go to immerse themselves in the Austen era, wearing period clothes, doing period activities, and interacting with a local "cast" of actors who serve them and even woo them as part of the "experience." The women all pretend to be in their twenties and single so as to be seen as marriageable (in terms of period norms).
It's an interesting premise which works with mixed success.
As a male reader, I wasn't really interested in all the clothing details, although to be fair that aspect wasn't terribly overplayed. Nor was I especially taken in by Jane's various heart-flutters and reactions to the presence of attractive males. Like I said, I'm not in the target audience.
Austenland customers are exclusively female. There is nothing there for a male customer, and indeed, male customers would spoil the scripted experience that is provided for the wealthy paying females. But is there nothing in the novel for the male reader?
Actually, there's a lot, if you're willing to look for it and set publisher's demographics aside. Author Shannon Hale manages to touch on some important observations about the human condition. Jane Austen did the same, and that made her books timeless and universal. I won't say Ms. Hale reaches Ms. Austen's level. But she does quite well.
The plot is relatively lightweight, at least from where I sit. Jane goes back and forth, hope swells, hope is crushed, hope swells again; that much is typical romance fare. What does work is Jane as an evolving character, Jane's development in the way she views herself, her progress toward self-understanding and ultimately, what I can only call redemption.
The writing is excellent, and I am delighted that the author didn't attempt a faux-Austen writing style. Modern prose suits this novel well and doesn't at all interfere with the period concepts.
My summary is this. The "Austenland" concept itself is rather mixed and doesn't work completely. The plot is, well, not much. But the writing is good and the lead character is superb. What we learn about ourselves as character Jane learns about herself is what makes this book one to read. Even for age 60+ males.
So take that, publisher!
Most recent customer reviews
Jane Hayes is a graphic designer for a NYC lifestyle magazine. Obsessed with all things Jane Austen, and especially Colin Firth's portrayal of Mr.Read more