Monday, February 02, 2009

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale
Copyright 2007
Bloomsbury Fiction
197 pages

I was just going to post a few quotes from Austenland and move on, but then I realized that just thinking about the book made me want to chatter, chatter, chatter about how much fun it is to read. That's what you're stuck with when you visit a blog with "babble" in the header.

I loved Austenland by Shannon Hale and I hate to part with it, but my copy is not mine. It's a library check-out. I shall wave my handkerchief and weep crocodile tears. Not really, but I'd have loved to hang onto it for a reread.

Austenland tells the tale of Jane Hayes, a single woman who has a secret: she's addicted to the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the one starring Colin Firth. Her great-aunt roots out Jane's secret and when she dies, she leaves Jane a pre-paid vacation at a resort where Jane Austen's Regency lifestyle is brought to life.

It's all a silly game; Jane knows that. And, yet she decides to take the vacation in order to attempt to purge herself of that perfect Mr. Darcy of her dreams.

Here is my excuse to post that wet Colin Firth photo, which I keep in my files:

It's easy enough to understand the addiction, isn't it?

Stop it, she told herself.

And then she thought about Mr. Nobley last night, his odd outburst, his insistence on dancing with her, and then his abrupt withdrawal after one dance. He truly was exasperating. But, she considered, he irritated in a very useful way. The dream of Mr. Darcy was tangling in the unpleasant reality of Mr. Nobley. As she gave herself pause to breathe in that idea, the truth felt as obliterating as her no Santa Claus discovery at age eight. There is no Mr. Darcy. Or more likely, Mr. Darcy would actually be a boring, pompous pinhead.


Austenland

is funny, romantic, sometimes all too realistic (poor Jane, renamed "Miss Erstwhile", falls at the bottom of the social ladder and must walk at the back of the line to the dining room). I don't know what else to say. I loved it. It's entertaining without being trite or cheesy. Shannon Hale has a great voice. Last year I gobbled up Princess Academy and this year I'm hoping to get around to reading The Goose Girl and Enna Burning. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll find other Hale stories captivating.

And, now I must return the book to the library, mail some other books and go for my walk in the park. Great, heaving sobs. I'm not usually so sad to hand over those library books.

42 comments:

  1. this book sounds great, i just added it to my need to check out from the library list. thanks!

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  2. Darcy WAS a boring, pompous pinhead, wasn't he? Now Colin Firth, on the other hand...

    Drats! I wish I were more of an Austen fan. I tried watching "Sense and Sensibility" on Masterpiece last night and was asleep within minutes.

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  3. I love Jane Austen. I am going to have to get my hands on this one. It looks great!!!

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  4. Erika Lynn,

    I hope you enjoy Austenland as much as I did. It's a quick, breezy read. I had trouble putting it down.

    Chartroose,

    He was a charmingly pompous pinhead whose verbal sparring with the woman he loved (but didn't want to love because he was all bent up about one's station in life) made her heart go pitty-pat. Not just anyone could keep up with Elizabeth Bennet's wit, after all. And, yes . . . Colin Firth. Sigh.

    I used to make laundry mountains just to formulate an excuse to watch at least an hour or two of that BBC production of P & P (I've not yet succeeded in falling asleep while folding, darn it). Two hours of folding clothes is a bit of a stretch. But, it helps if your cat finds the warm load on top and you have to slowly work your way around the mountain without freaking the cat out -- you know, to keep her from frantically clawing the knits.

    Donna,

    Please do get your hands on Austenland and then report back to me because I desire for you to love this book. :)

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  5. Sounds interesting. I am very careful with Jane Austen spin offs.
    I love the orginals lots. I read Goose Girl at the recommendation of a college friend and I was surprised but I liked it. I checked out Book of a Thousand Days by her at the library recently. Once I get caught up on reviews I got a stack from the library to read.:)

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  6. Brittanie,

    I am careful about spin-offs, too, especially after reading one terrific P & P knock-off and one that left me flat. Austenland isn't a spin-off, though, really. It's a modern retelling in that Jane finds her own Mr. Darcy type to spar with. And yet the story has plenty of unique aspects that set it apart from the old stories. It's lively storytelling. I really think you'd like it.

    "Surprised" is the perfect word to describe how I initially felt about Princess Academy. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I'll want to hear your thoughts about Book of a Thousand Days!!!

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  7. Oh oh OH!!! Guess what I bought today!! Oh, I'll just tell you. I got Enthusiasm which is supposedly some kind of Austen-love book (I just liked the title.) SO. When I get done reading it, I will send it your way. Just the kind of gal I am. You haven't read it, have you? By Polly Shulman.

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  8. My daughter LOVES that movie, so I'm going to get her this book for her birthday next month. She loves reading, of just about anything, so she should really enjoy this. The two of us just finished one after the other, Deadly Exchange, which is a great thriller. (Pretty different from Jane Austen, I know! I said she likes all kinds of books!) I think she mostly enjoyed the romance, while I liked all the espionage, thriller aspects, plus the high-tech component. Reminiscent of James Patterson or Vince Flynn -- and I'm very fond of Vince FLynn.

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  9. I'm glad to hear you loved it! I've seen some mixed reviews of this book and I've been wondering if I should read it or not. Your review makes me think I should! All I've read by Hale was The Goose Girl and the two sequels, but I absolutely adored those.

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  10. Care,

    Nope, I've only read two spin-offs. I haven't heard of Enthusiasm, but gosh, what a sweetie-pie you are! Now you've got me all excited. I hope you love it because I'm pretty sure I'll be more likely to love it if you do.

    Liz,

    You may be surprised to find out that I've read neither James Patterson nor Vincent Flynn because I gave up most suspense/thriller and mystery titles, a while back. I'm all about sweetness and light, now (with a little scary stuff thrown in for good measure). I'll look up Deadly Exchange. Yes, I think that would be a bit different from Jane Austen!!

    Nymeth,

    I don't know what exactly it was that compelled me to find Austenland, but when the mood struck I just had to read that book. I'm not sure if it's your type. If you're in the mood for levity, it's great. There's no complex plotting; it's rather predictable. But, sometimes that's just what you're looking for and I was in that kind of mood. Did I just confuse the issue? ;)

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  11. I don't think you actually NEED an excuse to post any Colin Firth photo, especially the wet Mr. Darcy!!!

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  12. This is on my TBR list! I can't wait to get to it. I'm also planning on reading Princess Academy this year. The Goose Girl was a great book! It's been years since I read it, but I remember enjoying it.

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  13. I love this book!! It has been a favorite of mine for over a year. I've even read it, oh, about 3 times just because I think it's hysterical. Her "Book of A Thousand Days" is a good one too.

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  14. Oh thank you for posting that adorable pix of Colin Firth. He was the perfect Darcy, wasn't he? Yet to find any of the recent ones come close. I'm a big fan of Austen and this does look like a good book, thanks for the review.

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  15. I've had uneven luck with Austen spin-offs, and like Nymeth, have heard mixed reviews about this one. Still, I think Austenland merits consideration, and it has been on my list for a while. Thanks for such an enthusiastic review--I love it when a book has that effect.

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  16. Sounds great! I just ordered it from the library and will probably buy my daughter a copy for her b-day. She is taking a Jane Austen in film class this semester. They watched the Colin Firth BBC version in class yesterday!! Ahh..tuition $$$ at work.

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  17. I read Austenland last year and LOVED it! In fact, it was a library copy and I went out and bought the paperback when it was released. I just had to add it to my bookshelves! I think that a book like this would translate beautifully to a romantic comedy movie, don't you think?

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  18. This sounds like loads of fun. I can understand the addiction to Colin Firth. I was never a big Pride and Prejudice fan, but he rocked me in Bridget Jones!

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  19. Sounds like a fun read! Thanks for the Colin photo!

    -Amy

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  20. I'm glad you loved it. I've been hemming and hawing about taking this one out at the library. Looks like I should after reading your review. I love Austen spinoffs.

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  21. I actually think I will probably end up reading this! Not really my normal type of read, but I have read several good reviews and it looks really fun!

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  22. Vince Flynn is fabulous. I'm just saying.

    I really liked Austenland and I'm leary of Auten knockoffs myself. It's just so.......grounded and frothy and fun. All at once. :)

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  23. Glad to hear this is good--I have it in my TBR pile!

    Melissa
    CR: Jimmy's Stars (YA)
    http://www.melissasbookpicks.blogspot.com

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  24. Go ahead and shoot those daggers...I loathe the BBC version of P&P (actually *still* haven't finished it), and Colin Firth? Ewwwwww. :) I haven't made up my mind about Austenland, but you've kind of given me a push in the direction of picking it up. Maybe for the next read-a-thon...

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  25. This one does sound cute, but I'm always scared that I will be horribly disappointed by these kinds of books that tread on the hallowed ground of my favorite books.

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  26. Holly,

    True, but it's nice to have an excuse. I've posted that photo to this blog twice, now.

    Andrea,

    Princess Academy surprised me. It wasn't at all the fluffy read I was expecting. Hope you love it. I'm planning to get to Enna Burning and Goose Girl, this year, but I say things like that frequently.

    Annell,

    I can easily visualize myself reading Austenland a half-dozen times. I just got The Book of a Thousand Days from the library, but who knows if I'll get to it. One can dream.

    Indigo,

    You're welcome and absolutely. I don't think anybody can possibly beat the Colin Firth version of Mr. Darcy. My opinion. I think he was perfect.

    Jenclair,

    "Uneven" is a good way to describe my experience with spin-offs, too. The first one I read was fabulous; the second I couldn't finish (too modern, not at all in Jane's spirit -- you attempted it, too). I don't consider Austenland a spin-off, but I'm not quite sure how to classify it. At the very least, I'd advise you to pick up a copy in your library and read a few pages to see if it's your thing.

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  27. JoAnn,

    I always think it's kind of odd when people watch movies in class instead of just reading the book, but I think the BBC version is very faithful to the novel. Lucky girl. I hope she loves the book. I thought it was loads of fun and I want to read it, again.

    Stephanie,

    Absolutely. I thought the book was written in a way that could be easily translated to film. The characters were very distinct and the scenes straightforward. They should hire Colin Firth to play Nobley. That would be a hoot.

    Stephanie,

    The funny thing about that Bridget Jones role is that he was playing another Darcy, wasn't he? Two Darcy roles in one lifetime -- one modern, one traditional. Now, he needs to play Mr. Nobley (the Darcy type in Austenland) and then he can put his foot down and say he's getting too old. None of the women will agree.

    Amy,

    You're welcome. Always willing to toss in a sexy photo (because I get to look at it every time I respond to emails - wahoo!).

    Dar,

    If you check it out from the library, you have nothing to lose, right? I still don't quite understand why I suddenly had to read that book and only that book, but I enjoyed it and I'm glad that unexpected urge arrived.

    Kailana,

    It's definitely not your normal fare, but we all need to shake up the reading on occasion, right? I hope you love it.

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  28. Carrie,

    I had to go look up Vince Flynn because I'd already forgotten we were talking about him. Oh . . . suspense dude. Okay, he's fabulous. I'll give him a try sometime, then. :)

    Melissa,

    You'll love it.

    Trish,

    You'd better check yourself into the hospital right now because you're sick, woman. Colin Firth is dreamy. But only as an actor. In real life, he strikes me as a bit odd.

    Kim,

    This book isn't so much a spin-off as a bit of silly fun with someone stepping into a fake Jane Austen world. I think you'll find that she handled the reality of living in a created world with a bunch of actors quite well. No treading on Jane.

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  29. Now...that McFadden guy from the newer P&P is dreamy...not sure about Firth. I do like him, kind of, in Love Actually and maybe Bridget Jones, but not so much as Darcy. I know...should be committed...

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  30. Trish,

    I've staunchly refused to watch the newer P & P. I'm too fond of the BBC version to corrupt my image of Darcy. Bear in mind that Mr. Firth is a wee bit closer to my age. (hack, cough) Still . . . look at that photo, again. Yes, I think maybe you should be at least analyzed. ;)

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  31. Any time is a good excuse to post a Colin Firth pic :)

    My best friend was telling me about this book just last week so I think all signs are pointing to "Must Read Soon!"

    Thanks for a great review.

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  32. Iliana,

    So true. We should all just take turns posting Colin Firth photos till we overdose.

    I think you should definitely read this book -- in between heavier reads would be good. It's nice and light.

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  33. You've pointed me again to a book (and, apparently an author) that I will have to read! THANKS!

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  34. LadyDoc,

    You've never read Shannon Hale? Oh, you must. Just run right out to your local store or library and let me know what you think when you finish that first book. I'll be waiting.

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  35. I've heard this is a good book, and I fancy Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, so I probably should read it!

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  36. Anna,

    I agree. You should definitely read it. :)

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  37. Do you want my copy of it when I'm done? I'll mail it to you!

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  38. Melissa,

    Oh, just twist my arm . . . YES!!!! Thank you for offering!!! BTW, I haven't mailed your book, yet, but it's in the envelope and I'll try to get that out asap. Today was a migraine and photography day. I was outside having fun during the short time the stupid migraine left me alone. I want a new head.

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  39. Hope you're feeling better! I will try to get to Austenland sooner rather than later and then will mail it out to you :-)

    Melissa
    http://www.melissasbookpicks.blogspot.com

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  40. Melissa,

    I'm better, thanks! No hurry. But, you knew that, right? ;) You're so sweet!!

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  41. Just finished this book - what fun!
    Thanks for recommending it. Here's my review:

    http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2009/02/austenland-by-shannon-hale.html

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  42. JoAnn,

    You're very welcome. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

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