Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

22 Dec

AustenlandMy rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I read Austenland as a mild Austen fan– I’m not obsessed, but I’ve read all the books, most of them more than once, and I’ve seen multiple movie versions as well.

I very much enjoyed this book on several levels.

First, it was cute and fun, and was just a pleasure on that surface level.The descriptions of Jane hiding her DVD of Pride and Prejudice, of her dealing with her (contraband) cell phone, and her dealings with the other guests at Pemberley were light and funny. The recaps of Jane’s previous “boyfriends” (anyone she’d ever dated) were laugh out loud funny at times, even while being sadly real. Also, I like fish out of water stories, and Jane trying to fit into a (faux) Regency England qualified.

Second, I was entertained by the Austen references. I wonder how many more I missed.  I’m a fan of books about bookish things, and again, this book fit into that niche for me.

Third, I appreciated the slightly deeper perspective of the book, looking at reality vs. fantasy in relationships, particularly in their early stages. I enjoyed getting to know Jane through the recaps of her past romances– they painted quite a picture of her when put together. Even better were her reflections as she moved through her Pemberley experience– she really was making an effort to think through her life.

In the end, I liked this book because it was the kind of book I like.  I really enjoyed The Actor and the Housewife when I read it earlier this year for similar reasons.  Like that book, Austenland won’t be for everyone, but Austenland lives up to its description.

I read this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the 4th item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m probably not going to finish the challenge by the end of the month.

Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.


Posted by on December 22, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews


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6 responses to “Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

  1. Katy (A Few More Pages)

    December 22, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I agree–this is a fun book to read. I enjoyed it over the summer. 🙂

  2. Stephanie

    December 22, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    So glad you enjoyed Austenland – it’s one of my fave Austen-ish reads!!

  3. Jen Forbus

    December 23, 2009 at 6:28 am

    This sounds cute. I might have to check it out. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is probably my most re-read book.

  4. Crystal

    December 23, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Great review. I read this last month I think and really enjoyed it also. Her books just seem to work for me.

  5. Shannon

    December 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I read this book maybe a year ago… and really enjoyed it, too! How cool would it be to actually visit an “Austenland”? I’d be there in a heartbeat! 😉

  6. nomadreader

    December 31, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I listened to this on audio on a long road trip alone, and I really enjoyed it! It was wacky and fun, and I agree it’s not for everyone, but it was entertaining. I’m glad you liked it too!


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