Book Mini-Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale
“If you were a woman, all I'd have to say is 'Colin Firth in a wet shirt' and you'd say 'Ah.’”
I’ve said before how much of a sucker I am for a great Jane Austen retelling or Austen-obsessed novel. Austenland by Shannon Hayes is one such novel and a delightful read. Jane Hayes’ love life is floundering. She is in early thirties and is convinced that one day Mr. Darcy will come along. She is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, not just the book, but also the Colin Firth BBC miniseries. And really, aren’t we all a little obsessed with Colin Firth? When her great aunt dies and bequeaths her a trip to Pembrook Park, Jane realizes that if she is ever going to kick this Darcy obsession, she needs to go live like she is in an Austen novel and get this obsession out of her system.
Jane arrives to Pembrook Park and quickly feels silly about pretending to live in Regency England. She has to give up her electronics and wear period dresses. The proprietor Mrs. Wattlesbrook must have a lot of issues to run this bizarre camp. Women come to Pembrook Park to live out their Austen fantasies; they assume appropriate identities (Jane is known as Miss Erstwhile) and are expected to choose one suitor to fall in love with and hopefully get engaged to at the end of their three-week stay. There are two potential suitors for Jane, Colonel Andrews and Mr. Nobley. While both are very handsome, neither one seems right for Jane. Mr. Nobley has Darcy qualities, but Jane quickly realizes he is just cold and distant. So Jane goes on nightly walks and stumbles upon gardener Theodore, whose actual name is Martin. Martin and Jane hook up a couple of times because Jane feels like their chemistry is the only real thing, when surrounded by actors and women pretending to be Austen heroines. After several fun hookups, Martin pulls back a bit from Jane, is kind of a jerk, and eventually rejects Jane. Jane, feeling foolish once again, ignores Martin and begins to interact more with Mr. Nobley. They still have an awkward rapport, but as the days pass, the two spend more time together and begin to like one another. But Jane has to return home; will her Darcy obsession be kicked?
This was a quick read, less than two hundred pages, which was refreshing. There is not a whole lot of plot to the book, so I think it was the perfect length. Austenland was just pure fun, nothing too serious to think about. I picked this up from the library only because I want to see the Keri Russell movie. Keri Russell feels like the perfect person to play Jane, and I’m curious to see how the movie brings Pembrook Park to life.
If you are looking for a fun, quick book with some Austen love, definitely give Austenland a try. I’ll report back after I watch the movie. I mean sometimes you just want to leave in a world where Colin Firth is in period attire and professes his undying love for you. Jane, I totally understand. I give Austenland 3.5 stars.
Austenland also has one of my favorite dedications: “For Colin Firth. You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.” I feel so seen.
What other Austen retellings do you recommend?