Book 166: Midnight in Austenland – Shannon Hale

Hale, Shannon - Midnight in AustenlandThis is why reading a sequel/spinoff isn’t necessarily the best idea. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the changes and plot twists were definitely worth the invested reading time and the ending was just as clichéd and wonderful as the first book, but I would’ve been just as good if I stopped after Austenland. And yet I’m already wondering if there is another book in the works for the ‘series.’

First, I want to start of with this. If anyone ever sets me up on a blind date there are two things you should know about who your setting me up with. If they can discuss both Jane Austen and Star Wars I will probably make a fool of myself. Somehow I feel as if the author knew this and I nearly died of embarrassment/enjoyment/excitement when I read the following:

“His slightest smile produced Death Star-size dimples in both cheeks, and his blue eyes sparkled in the candlelight.” (31)

I mean seriously? A Star Wars reference in a Jane Austen fan-fiction novel? OMG, YES!

Secondly, my response will probably come across more negative than I intend. I think Hale has written two interesting books that were fun to read and I enjoyed them. And her strongest point is her ability to interpret the emotions of reading an Austen novel,

“The stories pulled out of her sensation after sensation: a fluttering in her belly, a laugh on her lips, a pounding in her heart. Austen’s books made her feel, and that was new, and intoxicating too. And so hopeful.” (10)

Who hasn’t experienced this sort of sensation when reading Austen’s novels? Think of those scenes, especially the final one where you know a profession of love is going to occur, between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Fanny and Edmund or Elinor and Edward. Did your pulse not race? Did you not feel a flutter in your stomach? Now on to my response

As with the first book, Hale’s writing felt simple and lacking most of the time, but her story line was again credible and fun to follow. As I don’t read summaries of novels once I buy them I often forget what the story is about and this time it was a good thing. I wasn’t sure whether the midnight in the title implied more illicit romance or whether it implied suspense. Thankfully, it was the latter.

Hale’s ability to tell a story is undeniable, but her ability to write it well is still debatable. Again, I felt as if the author interjected her thoughts into the book when they might have been meant as a character’s thoughts. In addition, her characterizations were well done, but could have been better. Many of the characters seemed well developed, and those from the previous novel more so, but a lot of things were lacking and she can only blame so much on the ‘acting’ within the realms of Austenland for not giving them depth. And although I got it, I didn’t really understand the need for the addition of Mary to the novel. Sure it gave an additional love twist and psychoses and thrill, but meh.

Recommendation: If you like Austen fan-fiction and you like thrillers. This is your book. If not, don’t worry about it and check out Austenland.

Opening Line: “No one who knew Charlotte Constance Kinder since her youth would suppose her born to be a heroine.”

Closing Line: “But first, she was going to learn to dance.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from Midnight in Austenland
“‘But how do you know if the ending is truly good for the characters unless you’ve traveled with them through every page?’…’What about you, Eddie?’ Charlotte asked, ‘Do you take a peak at the last page?’ ;NEver. I cover the right page while I read the left, lest I accidentally read ahead. I am a slave to a story. So long as a book is not trying to be useful or pontificate at me tirelessly, I am its willing servant.'” (120)

“It’s a universal truth that nothing spoils a postlunch game of croquet like suspecting the other players of murder.” (130)

“She was not going to be the haunted waif in this story. She was going to take pretend romance by the horns and wrestle it into submission. She was going to be noticed.” (135)

“It was the heroine’s prerogative to give the villain a final kiss and she had decided to be the heroine after all. Jane Austen had created six heroines, each quite different, and that gave Charlotte courage. There wasn’t just one kind of woman to be. She wasn’t afraid anymore. She was feeling at home at last in Austenland, and she meant to enshroud herself with that boldness and take it home with her.” (240)

“The romance and awkwardness and sublime uncertainty would have broken her heart and driven her crazy. What next, what then, what should I say, what if I turned around, what will he do? But age gave her the peace, at least, to live inside that moment like a poet—to not sacrifice the beauty to the anxiety of What Next, but to just observe.” (243)

“Here’s the thing about home: you can create it most anywhere, as long as you gather your people around you.” (272)


5 thoughts on “Book 166: Midnight in Austenland – Shannon Hale”

  1. It’s odd that some writers can come up with such incredible stories and yet their writing is flat and it ruins the whole thing. And death-star–wasn’t expecting that at all.


  2. I know! It’s such a great idea and then plop. I mean at least the first one was a bit better. And I pretty much squealed like a 14 year old girl when I read that line. Star Wars AND Jane Austen, it’s like my own personal heaven 😀 Plus it’s such a great descriptor when you think about it!


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