Jane Hayes is obsessed with Fitzwilliam Darcy and she blames the BBC. She could swoon at the romance of Pride and Prejudice and still lead a normal life; that is, until the BBC put a face to Darcy and then all was lost. Now she’s stashing her double DVD set in her potted plants like she has a guilty secret. It’s just her luck that her Great-Aunt Carolyn finds her secret stash and is convinced that Jane has put her life on hold to wait for Darcy. Unfortunately she also knows that it’s not just any Darcy, but Colin Firth’s Darcy, and so Carolyn sets in motion an ingenious plan to cure Jane once and for all.
After Carolyn dies, Jane discovers she’s been left an unusual legacy – three weeks at an English country home dedicated to Austen-addicts. Attired in empire-waist gowns and bound by Regency-era etiquette, Jane decides she’ll indulge her passion to its fullest, live the fantasy and then give up men for good. Will she be able to give up her addiction or will she be stuck in Austenland?
Jane Austen’s novels have inspired generations of novelists whose works pay tribute through both style and content. Shannon Hale’s newest novel Austenland very ably does both and fans of Austen’s works will find much in this delightful novel that is familiar. Jane Hayes is seeking a Darcy of her own and naturally her character mirrors many of Elizabeth Bennett’s character traits, especially her use of language and wit. Yet at times Jane’s personality calls to mind other, gentler, Austen heroines, most notably Fanny Price from Mansfield Park, and at times even Mrs. Bennett.
Plot elements from all the novels are incorporated into the make-believe world of Austenland. Miss Heartwright was convinced to turn down a proposal from a naval captain and now fate has conspired to have them reunited (Persuasion). A theatrical production is staged (Mansfield Park) and of course, Miss Jane Erstwhile and Mr. Nobley meet and begin a verbal battle of wills (Pride and Prejudice).
Hale excels at writing Austen-like dialogue and in this arena Austenland truly shines.
Miss Erstwhile: “It is such a relief, Mr. Nobley, to already know that you find this exercise vulgar and your partner unworthy. It saves us the idle chitchat.”
Mr. Nobley: “And yet you chat away.”
Aunt Saffronia: “Lovely dance! Shall I play another?”
Miss Erstwhile: “What say you, Mr. Nobley? Ready to be done with me?”
“I think…” He bowed. “I think I will retire early. I bid you a good evening.”
Will Austenland cure readers of the search for their own Mr. Darcy? Likely not, but they will have an enjoyable read whilst trying.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: May 27, 2007
tags: books book reviews Shannon Hale Jane Austen