Austenland by Shannon Hale

Like everyone else in the world I am a huge fan of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice as depicted by A&E staring Collin Firth. What’s sad is that this movie was really my first introduction to Austin’s writing. I think I got turned off of The Classics after being forced to read them throughout my school years, generally in a very hurried fashion the night before the test. So unfortunately, Austin remained a hidden treasure until the first night A&E began their classic mini-series.

Since then, I’ve been hooked.

There’s something about that formal world, where every possible situation had a prewritten and appropriate response. And humor was delivered with a quick mind and a clever use of words. (Compare that with the R or worse rated comedians of today!)

So when I learned that Shannon Hale had written a book about a woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy and the world of Jane Austin, I knew I had to read it.

Shannon Hale is a first rate writer and an excellent representation of the talented authors we have in the LDS Church. The New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Newberry Honor Award, has written six young adult novels, two graphic novels (which are not books with lots of sex and language, but a type of book told with both words and comic book like graphics) and two adult novels.

Last year LDSBookcorner ran Hale’s latest adult novel called The Actor and The Housewife, which followed the unlikely friendship between Mormon house-wife Becky Jack, pregnant with baby number four and super sexy, world known heartthrob Felix Callahan.

Austenland published in 2008 by Bloomberry, tells the story of Jane Hayes a woman in her early thirties who is obsessed with the above mentioned version of Pride and Prejudice, and specifically with Collin Firth’s Mr. Darcy.

Jane has a list of ex-relationships that are scary enough to make any girl give up men forever. (Hale recounts these various love encounters as headings for many of the chapters.)

The manor is everything promised and more. Jane finds herself dressed for the time period, following the customs, and even learning the steps to the minuet. She is surrounded by actors playing the part of handsome and eligible young suitors or mistress and master of the house. It’s easy to slip into her role as an Elizabeth Bennett type heroine.

But as the weeks move on, the line between fantasy and truth becomes blurred, and it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t.

This was a wonderful read. Hale’s sense of humor is sharp and edgy. Her characters are believable, and her heroine is perfect as an often a confused and awkward woman trying to find herself. There are a couple of kissing/necking scenes, but nothing that made me uncomfortable. And the plot kept me guessing right up until the last few pages.

Amazon sells it for under $5.00 new and has plenty of copies. I would highly recommend it and give it five stars.


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