Monday, August 15, 2011


Title/Author: Austenland by Shannon Hale.

Read by: Katherine Kellgren.

Genre: Chick Lit/Romantic Comedy.

Publisher: Audio Renaissance.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Jane Hayes.

Favorite quote: “I didn’t see what was real until time had washed away everything else.” ~Carolyn.

“Something about the way he looked at her made her feel naked. Not naked sexy, but naked embarrassed. Naked he sees through my idiocy and knows what a silly woman I am.” ~Jane.

“She wanted to love someone the way she felt when painting. Fearless, messy, vivid.” ~Jane

All in all: Silly, cute and fun.

Synopsis: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?

My Thoughts: Yeah, okay, I do love Jane Austen. I haven’t read all of her books (yet), but every time a movie version of one of them comes out, I have to see it (many times). I haven’t read any of the “sequels” or re-tellings that include her characters, or the Pride & Prejudice and Zombies type books, but I loved the movie Becoming Jane and I caught a movie called Lost in Austen which I also enjoyed. When I saw Austenland on the shelf in the library, I didn’t hesitate to check it out.

This was a fun, silly, cute and very humorous story. Can you imagine going on a vacation where you “played” dress up like that? This is part of Jane’s problem. She has wanted this so bad all her life. The balls, the gowns, the romance. Trouble is she painted herself in a corner. No one but a "Mr. Darcy" would live up to her expectations. She was holding onto a dream even as she told herself it was unrealistic, ridiculous and kind of unhealthy.

She decides to go to Austenland because she thinks it will cure her of the Pride and Prejudice romantic obsession and she will leave purged of all fantastical notions and be able to land in a successful relationship. Once there, she waffles as she tries to immerse herself and struggles with what she is supposed to learn in this pretend dress up game. Even though she always longed for this, she feels uncomfortable and like an outsider, so she rebels and breaks some rules to make herself feel “real” again.

Then she decides she is going to embrace the role and make the most of it. She takes her cue from Elizabeth Bennett who laughed at herself and her situation. However, Jane still has trouble deciding if Mr. Nobly’s (yeah, what a name!) feelings are part of his role, but by the end of her stay she seems to have an epiphany and realizes she wants something real and her dreams do not have to attain her high standards but can remain as fantasies.

This is a short listen, it is only 5 discs and they flew by. I enjoyed the narrator who did an excellent job voicing the different characters. The characters themselves were well painted and it was easy for me to visualize all of them, from the ridiculous Miss Elizabeth “Charming” to the hip and hunky gardener Martin.  It is also a very, very funny book.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Austenland is too flighty and silly to try.  Jane herself is a likeable character who is funny, has a wry sense of humor and I love how she stood up for herself at the end of the book.  There are also many astute points brought up about Jane Austen and the Regency Era. I especially love Jane and Mr. Nobly’s discussion about portraits and Jane’s observation that they say: “I’m important enough to look at.” This is how she wanted to feel as well. Don’t we all?


Anonymous said...

The premise sounds so cute and funny. I can just imagine how it plays out. A good audiobook reader can make all the difference - I'll keep this one in mind. Awesome review!

Bookish Brunette said...

Now what if I've never read Jane Austen?? Will I still enjoy this one??

Jenny said...

Oh my gosh I love, love, loved Becoming Jane! I could watch James McAvoy over and over again:) This sounds like such a great story, I hadn't heard of it before but it seems like it would be a nice break from all my paranormal reads. Thanks for your thoughts:):)

Bonnie said...

I love all the "Austenesque" books like Austenland which I have read. If you enjoyed this one you would really like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and its sequel.

I so enjoyed Becoming Jane and I absolutely loved Lost in Austen that a friend sent me because she knows my love of all things Austen. :)

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

@Bookish Brunette!!!! Never read JA? Not even as required reading in high school? *gasp heard round the world* For shame.

@Pam, I'm the same way, no matter what I'm doing, if I come across a JA movie on T.V. I have to watch, even if I've already watched it a million times.

I'd love to go to a place like Austenland. I think it would be fun. I'm walk about drunk like Mrs. Bennett, and try to play matchmaker.

Actually, I know this is funny, but when I visited Bath, I did feel a connection to JA. The town was so very charming and walking around it was magical.

Midnyte Reader said...

@thereadingdate-I agree w/you on the narrator. I wasn't able to get through some audio books b/c of the reader.

@BookishBrunette-Absolutely! I think people who aren't even fans of Jane Austen can appreciate this book. It's basically a romance.

@Jenny-I do like reading JA to break up my horror/paranormal!

@Bonnie-I am going to check out Confessions.

@Missie-I hope to go to Bath one day. I would have a hoot if I ever went to a place like Austenland. Since I'm "older" I would play a matriarch who speaks her mind!

Corinna said...

Oh this sounds cute! I watched Paltrow's version of "Emma" a ridiculous amount of times in high school, since it was my favorite Austen novel at the time. The Macfadyen version of "Pride of Prejudice" is my favorite, as is Frances O'Connor's version of "Mansfield Park". I think the idea of the Regency era is wonderful, but I'd imagine it was horribly stuffy and I don't think I'd last in real life.

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