Books

Book 165: Austenland – Shannon Hale

Hale, Shannon - AustenlandWhat better way to close out the year than with some much-needed light frivolous reading? Add in that it’s Jane Austen related and I’m in 😀 The last book of the year after this will be Hale’s Midnight in Austenland.

Every time I read one of these I get all giggly and giddy and then immediately think WTF is wrong with me; and really I just need to let go and enjoy the senselessness of it and enjoy them for what they are (which I clearly do – thus the giggly/giddiness).

I don’t want to discredit or over-credit this book. I thought the story was incredibly entertaining, and definitely humorous, but the writing felt somewhat juvenile. I’m still not 100% sure whether this novel is geared towards young adults or just the general public. I saw on Goodreads, and maybe Wikipedia too, that many people had labeled it Young Adult, but I’m still not sure. Writing says young adult, storyline says no.

The major plus side of this book was the story! What Austenite wouldn’t want a complete immersion experience in 1815 Regency England? I’m not sure if this exists, outside of the myriad Austen conventions, but if it does I would SO be there – but they would have to bend the rules a little, I mean I want Mr. Darcy too! (Or any other number of Austen men. Haahaa.) I had no trouble believing that this sort of story could take place and that perhaps something like this does exist for a certain level of wealthy clientele and thus us plebs are not aware of it.

A second bonus I enjoyed was that Hale did a good job of empowering Jane, the protagonist. Although I found her tedious on a few occasions (who doesn’t find a protagonist tedious?), I felt that she did evolve over the story and her experience was something I often times wonder if I need myself in order to remove my own dependencies on fantasy and fiction. Hale writes,

“She believed now in earnest that fantasy is not practice for what is real—fantasy is the opiate of women. And she buried her fantasy behind her in the English countryside. Her life would be open to real possibilities. There was no Mr. Darcy, there was no perfect man. But there might be someone. And she’d be ready.” (180)

Hale used Jane’s experiences and her seemingly crippling obsession of Mr. Darcy (specifically Colin Firth) and created a liberating experience for Jane to find herself, and a surprise, while attempting to let go of something that doesn’t exist.

The downside of the novel I feel was the writing style and perhaps the writing voice. Told from Jane’s (not Austen) perspective I often times felt Hale had issues staying within her voice and periodically I wondered whether it was Jane or the author adding interjections and exclamations to the story. (I’ve already started Midnight in Austenland and it’s actually a little worse in it.) In addition, the ending was perfectly cliché, but I LOVED it! 😀 I found myself grinning and I even put the book up to my head and went OMG I don’t want it to end.

Recommendation: Definitely a ‘give it a go’ type book. It does help if you love everything Austen and aren’t anti-romance novels. This would definitely be a great film (made for TV probably) and it is either in production or has already become a movie.

Opening Line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her.”

Closing Line: “We’re going to order in tonight.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from Austenland
“Besides being witty and funny and maybe the best novel ever written [Pride and Prejudice], it’s also the most perfect romance in all of literature and nothing in life can ever measure up, so I spend my life limping in its shadow.” (6)

“She had forgotten the thrill she used to feel when buying a new paintbrush, squeezing all those colors onto her palette, smelling the clean natural odor of the oils, the reckless unknown of first spoiling a white canvas. These past years, she had grown comfortable with her mouse and computer screen, creating corporate art, lazy and dull. And now, smearing green and gray together, interrupting it with orange, she realized she had loved her last boyfriends as a graphic designer would. But she wanted to love someone the way she felt when painting—fearless, messy, vivid.” (125)

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13 thoughts on “Book 165: Austenland – Shannon Hale”

  1. Hmm, I’m a big fan of Jane Austen and read this one a while back, but it didn’t really do it for me. The fact that Shannon Hale’s other books are Young Adult may have caused people to categorize it that way, though I agree that doesn’t really fit.

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    1. Yeah – I’ve read much better fan fiction, but I’ve also read worse! I think it was a cross from her other books and the very simplistic writing. I’m not sure she quite knows how to write for an ‘adult’ audience yet.

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    1. Yay for Austen! I’m rereading Pride and Prejudice shortly for the 200th anniversary. Of all the fan-fic I’ve read this is one of the more creative, but I wish there was more vested in the writing.

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