Shannon Hale – Austenland

Shannon Hale - AustenlandI guess that first I should admit that I started this book with very low expectations. After the last Austen-adaptation that I read (Death comes to Pemberley), I was expecting this one to be just as terrible. But actually, it was rather good.

The story revolves around a woman called Jane, living in New York, who has been hopelessly obsessed with Mr Darcy (as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation) for as long as she can remember. Every relationship she has fails because no guy can live up to her vision of the perfect Mr Darcy.

But when an elderly relative dies, she leaves in her will a trip to Austenland in England, a place where you are transported back in time to the beginning of the 19th Century, dressing like the characters from an Austen novel, and becoming fully immersed in that world, not even allowed to take your mobile phone with you. And as Jane soon realises, there are actors employed to play the part of other characters from the book, all picked to help you have the ‘perfect experience’.

But Jane isn’t their usual client. She’s only agreed to go in the hopes that she can rid herself of her Darcy obsession once and for all, whereas the usual clientele are there for a bit of fun away from their husbands. So Jane is surprised when rather than falling for one of the actors, she falls for the gardener, Martin. He’s like a breath of fresh air from the stuffiness and rules of the regency period, and they while away a few nights together watching NBA and drinking root beer. But alas, it looks like it’s not to be. At least the one thing that Martin has taught Jane is that she hasn’t given up on men completely, she just needs to find the right one.

Which she is confident will most definitely will not be Mr Nobley. He’s arrogant, surly and rude and she can’t seem to fathom him, thinking him not at all like Mr Darcy. But she seems to have forgotten that the Darcy at the start of Pride and Prejudice also appears to be surly and rude to dear Elizabeth, just remembering the Darcy nearer to the end that Elizabeth falls in love with (and most likely the Colin Firth Darcy that emerges from the lake).

So will Jane’s stay in Austenland end with her own Pride and Prejudice moment, or will the gardener Martin manage to win back her heart? And is everything quite as it seems? Have the lines between acting and real life become blurred? Well I won’t spoil it for you, but the ending was both a surprise and also exactly what I expected at the same time.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, which I initially only downloaded onto my Kindle because it was free. I’m very excited to find that there is a second book in the series (although it doesn’t look like it will be Jane as the main star). I’m also pleased to learn that they made this book into a film last year, and it comes out on DVD in a couple of months, it’s definitely one to watch. While I was reading the book, I pictured the character of Miss Charming as a rather buxom older blonde lady, and I was pleased to see that in the film the character is played by Jennifer Coolidge, who is exactly as I pictured the character in my head. Looks very promising to be a good film!

I’ll just leave you with my favourite quote from the book (although I won’t tell you who says it so that I don’t spoil the plot), it’s definitely enough to make any woman weak at the knees!

And if I don’t make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world every day of your life, then I don’t deserve to be near you.


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