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VINE VOICEon October 19, 2017
Jane Hayes is a thirty-something who is disillusioned with romance. None of her thirteen boyfriends have been at all like Collin Firth in Pride and Prejudice. He is her romantic ideal. When her great aunt leaves her a three week vacation at Austenland, she looks at it as a time to get over her obsession with Mr. Darcy and prepare to live the rest of her life more realistically - alone with no romance, but more realistically.

Arriving at Austenland, Jane become immersed in the Regency time period but can't help wondering how much of what happens around her is real. One of her fellow guests is an American named Miss Elizabeth Charming who is determined to find her romance but who is often an object of fun as she develops her own interpretation of the Regency period. The other guest is Miss Heartwright who is a return visitor. The gentlemen are Colonel Andrews, Mr. Nobley and Captain East. While these gentlemen are interesting, Jane meets gardener Martin who seems more real to her.

I liked that the story was told from Jane's point of view and included her witty observations. I think that I was somewhat handicapped because I have never read anything by Jane Austen nor have I seen any of the movies. I enjoyed this story about a young woman who is trying to find her happily ever after.
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on September 5, 2017
I think the book is misclassified by Amazon. I would call it a Romance for teens. It is a light read and easy to get through. The plot revolves around a place in England where well-to-do people, maybe just women, go to live a fantasy life in Jane Austen's time and "life." They wear period clothing, assume different names, etc. Some of the people, most I think, are actors who get paid and others seem to be single and married women who pay for the privilege of living in Austenland. The ones who pay don't know who are actors and who are paying customers. The point of going to this place seems to be to find true love and get a proposal.

I found the book rather frothy and silly with an easy to predict ending. Several people I know and reviewers really liked it which is why I bought it. I'm giving it 3 stars, but the more I think about it, it should be 2.5.
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on December 27, 2015
Jane Hayes spends 3 weeks at a kind of Jane Austen Regency camp, where there are handsome men just waiting to pay court to those women willing to pony up the dough to live out their dreams. They are given period names and clothing and agree to strictly adhere to rules of deportment while living in this controlled environment where modern technology like ipads and cell phones are absolutely verboten. Jane couldn't have paid for all this herself, but a distant relative decided she needed the experience to purge her of her Mr. Darcy obsession and gifted it to her. Unfortunately, the director of this stuffy place makes it clear that Jane is not of the same quality as their usual clientele, and Jane steels herself to expect no special treatment.

The experience turns out to be a better time for the reader than it is for Jane. The boredom! The quiet! The lack of any real conversation beyond polite nothings! And these guys are all actors, aside from the other female guests who seem to be far more into this nonsense than Jane is. She starts bucking the system early and finds a few cracks in the facade. She certainly gets to experience some romance with more than one of the men on the grounds. By the end of the book, though, both Jane and the reader are thoroughly confused over what's an act and what's for real in this strange place.

Austenland pokes fun at those who live vicariously through Regency romance - specifically those who pine for their own Mr. Darcy to the extreme of measuring every man they meet against him - and even though it's a rather fluffy book itself, it makes a serious point: If you want a real relationship with a real man, you have to live in the real world and not in a fantasy.

I haven't seen the movie, so I have no idea how it compares. The book is nicely written, fun to read, and full of plot surprises. I did enjoy that the intro to each chapter described, in succession, each of the prior men in Jane's love life. It did strike me that what made these relationships unsuccessful was NOT her obsession with Mr. Darcy, and so I don't think they really supported what seemed to be the book's premise, though they were humorous. None of this story is to be taken very seriously, especially the ending, which is very romance novel-ish.
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on July 28, 2017
It has been a long time since I dedicated a whole day to getting through a book. I felt it was a fun and unique storyline even though I'm not a big P&P fan. Grab a glass of wine and settle back for a light, but intriguing summer read. (And do NOT bother with the movie. It was awful even though I am a fan of a couple of the actors.)
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on August 31, 2013
So if you have any familiarity with Jane Austen, you're going to figure out the plot of this one quickly, and you will enjoy every second of it. The allusions to the novel itself as well as the Colin Firth BBC version had me in stitches. The main character is hilarious as are the supporting characters, especially Miss Charming. I'm so glad Jennifer Coolidge is playing her in the movie, because she is the only woman I could imagine in that role anyway. The overt and subtle references to P&P are so well done and so wonderfully interwoven into the story. As a former single 30 something, I could also relate to the main character that way as well. If you like Jane Austen, if you like a good laugh, if you like irony, a few plot twist curve balls, and a sweet romance, this is definitely your book.
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on February 18, 2016
I liked the novel a lot. It was funny, cute and very lighthearted. A 30'something Jane Hayes living a little bit in a romantic fantasy land where men from Jane Austen's books actually exist, goes through many "relationships" in hopes of finding herself a Mr. Darcy. An old family member dies and leaves her a ticket to Austenland. Austenland is an immersive role-play vacation place set in Jane Austen's era ,The Regency period (1811-1820) - (which corresponds with the Federalist and Empire periods in the United States and France, respectively. The ticket is non-refundable so waste not, want not - she goes. And she learns that fantasy is... just fantasy. She still manages to have an adventure and learn a thing or two about herself. And herein lies the best part of the story. NO Spoilers! It's an easy read, the language is lovely, the pace is just right and the characters very well fleshed out.

The movie however... urgh! I can't believe someone ruined this great little book with such a craptrastic screenplay - shame on them. If it wasn't for the talent of ALL the combined actors the movie would have been absolutely un-watchable.
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on June 16, 2016
I've read this book a couple times now, and I just reread it. It's a short read (I finished it in three hours), but it packs a lot in there. It's technically chic-lit, but there's quite a bit of heart in the read. It's a very good homage to Austen and unpacking the idea of letting fiction overtake reality. In my recent rereading, I found myself in the protagonist, as I have been struggling with very big life changes. The main character, Jane, struggles with connecting her two identities of who she shows to everyone (confident career woman) and who she feels she is (pathetic romantic waiting for her Darcy). Her main plot line is her accepting both sides and feeling comfortable with people knowing that side of her she hates. Jane follows a similar plot to Elizabeth Bennet, but there's a couple twists in there to make it fresh.

If you've seen the movie, read the book. I watched the movie after, and it took out a lot of the themes running through the book.
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VINE VOICEon December 16, 2010
Several friends have read and enjoyed Austenland by Shannon Hale and I was in the mood for some seriously light reading. My brain seems to have turned off this holiday season. Austenland turned out to be exactly what I was looking for this week.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the story of Jane Hayes, obsesssed with Mr. Darcy (aka Colin Firth), goes on vacation to Pembrook Park, Kent, England. I'm sure there aren't many women who haven't dreamed at least for a second that they were back in Jane Austen's England. I'm not even a super-Austen fan (I've only read four of her novels) and yet . . .

Jane Hayes soon becomes Miss Erstwhile and is immersed into the world of Pembrook Park and the stuffy, politeness and gentility of the handsome actors that inhabit it. Jane is trying desperately to leave her obsessions behind her so that she can successfully move on to reality.

Hale's writing is witty and engaging in this squeaky clean novel.
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on January 2, 2013
I promise you - I promise you - that this the last Jane Austen/Pride and Prejudice spin off for at least six months. At least.

But Austenland is much different from any other P&P spin off that I've read before. There is no Lizzy/Darcy re-tellings and re-imaginings, and no weird time travel that spits the main character back into Regency England. Instead, as the synopsis stated, Jane Hayes is sent on a holiday in which she role plays a Regency lady for three weeks to attempt to cure herself from her Darcyitis (I'm coining that term right now - to suffer from impossibly high standards because of Fitzwilliam Darcy)... which so many of us suffer from. I don't know how many times I've forced my poor boyfriend to watch the 2005 Pride and Prejudice (starring Keira Knightley and Matthew McFayden - my favorite Darcy, hands down) in hopes that some of the Darcyness will rub off on him. Has it worked? Nope, not at all... but he's more of a Bingley if I'm being honest with myself.

Austenland doesn't take itself seriously, either. Jane Hayes, while hopelessly lost as far as her love life goes, is a funny and modern woman. She realizes how ridiculous the situation in which she finds herself is and attempts to make the best of it. This book literally had me laughing out loud at certain points and that has not happened in a very long time.

As per usual, there was a love triangle/twist of Darcy-Wickham proportions that kept me on the edge of my seat that was made even more interesting because of the setting of the novel. Because Jane is staying at resort that boasts an authentic Regency experience, every person that she comes in contact with is a paid actor (save for the other guests). Jane finds herself falling for two men but cannot decide whether or not they are acting or if their feelings are genuine. It messed with my mind and the ending completely blind sided me. With the history that I've had with predictable books, it was refreshing to be truly surprised at an ending.

All in all, Austenland was a lot of fun. If you are looking for something along the lines of P&P but aren't quite ready to delve into the world of Abigail Reynolds, I strongly suggest that you pick this book up (I believe the Kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99!) - it gave me just enough of the feel of P&P while maintaining its independence. And, if IMDB isn't lying to me, we can expect a movie adaptation in the near future. I freaking hope so!

* This book was read in 2012... so it will not be used for any of my challenges.
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Being a JA fan I'm always on the lookout for a creative take on Miss Austen's work. Some are cringeworthy, others are fantastic; fortunately, Austenland by YA author Hale falls closer to the latter end of the spectrum. It is built on the brilliant conceit that, somewhere in England, there is an historic recreation of Jane Austen's world, replete with Empire waists and haughty gentlemen, which caters to the whims of an exclusive clientele. Jane Hayes has entered this rarefied fantasy due to the largesse of a dead aunt, and Hale's witty dialogue and talent for humor add up to a rollicking, if necessarily genteel, holiday from her abysmal love life. Chapters open with a take on Jane's succession of bad boyfriends, and these help fill out our perception of the heroine. Well written and fun, this is a fast read, a literary chocolate-covered marshmallow marred only by a hurried and muddled ending that should not detract overmuch from this fun romp through Austenland.
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