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Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

AustenlandMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads.com:

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.

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

 

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Review: An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aidan

An Assembly Such as This (Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, #1)My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows — as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

This book just seemed to go on and on, without much happening, and no significant insight into Darcy’s character.

The narrator didn’t help matters for me. I didn’t enjoy his voice. He did a competent job with the reading, but he’s not going to be a favorite of mine.

My main problem is that during the course of this book, Darcy has no life other than worrying about his love life, worrying about his friend’s love life, and writing beautiful letters to his beloved younger sister. All of these are fine, but I’d seen Darcy to be a man with some substance behind him. I just don’t see it in this book.

I did like the concept. I liked where the storyline around Georgina (Darcy’s sister) was going.  I loved Darcy’s valet. Some of the other secondary characters have promise of being developed in the later books. I’m just not sure I’m going to bother to read them.

everythingausten2I listened to this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the second item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m now on schedule!

Next up is either to watch a different version of Emma or read the Lost in Austen choose your own adventure book.  Or maybe something else entirely!

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

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: BBC production of Emma

Emma-BBCA few weeks ago, I bought the BBC Video Jane Austen Collection at Costco.  I love Costco finds, and this time I even had a coupon.

I picked out Emma to watch first.  This production is a miniseries from 1972, and is 270 minutes long (6 45 minute episodes).

On the one hand, I think it was quite faithful to the novel.  I like the book, and so I enjoyed this production. All of the performers did a fine job with their parts.  The casting for Harriet Smith and Mr. Woodhouse was particularly good– they were just as I imagined the characters.

On the other hand, I don’t think this production brought anything new to the story for me.

I feel somewhat shallow saying that I found this production dry.  It didn’t have a soundtrack, and I missed that.  The actors were relatively ordinary looking– I expect a fairly dashing Mr. Knightly, and a good looking (although not necessarily beautiful) Emma.   The whole series felt like it had the same (slow) pace.

Jane Austen fans will probably enjoy this version (although perhaps not find it a favorite), but I wouldn’t try to bring anyone new into the fold by watching it.

everythingausten2I viewed this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the first item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m a little behind schedule, but I’m sure I’ll catch up at some point! I’m currently listening to An Assembly Such as This: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentlemanfor my next item. Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2009 in challenge, movie

 

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Jane Austen Challenge

everythingausten2OK, I think I’m going to join in with the Everything Austen Challenge at Stephanie’s Written Word!

I’d been avoiding it for two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to get caught up in challenges.
  2. I did a complete re-read of Jan Austen relatively recently.

All of the reviews I’ve been reading of fun tie-in books have won me over.  I’ll read some of those, watch a couple of movies, maybe pick an Austen book to re-read…

The challenge: The Everything Austen Challenge will run for six months (July 1, 2009 – January 1, 2010)! All you need to do is pick out what six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge.

I’m not quite ready to commit yet, but here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Austenland by Shannon Hale
  2. Lost in Austen: Create your own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster
  3. Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
  4. Watch Emma (again)
  5. Watch Sense & Sensibility (again)
  6. Watch Lost in Austen
  7. Re-reread one of Jane Austen’s novels

Yup, that’s already more than 6, and there are other possibilities I’m considering!  I’m looking forward to the challenge, and to discussing it with everyone else that is in on it!

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2009 in blogging, books, challenge

 

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