10.05.2011

Currently Reading: Austenland

AustenlandJane turned her gaping mouth into a smile. "So, you can tell the worth, the merit, the nobility of a person at a glance?"

"And you cannot?" His expression held a mild challenge. "Can you tell me that within the first few moments of knowing each person in this room, you had not formed firm judgments of their character, which up to this very moment you have not questioned?"

She smiled ever so slightly. "You are correct, sir. However, I do hope that, in at least one regard, my first impression will eventually prove not to be completely accurate."

Author: Shannon Hale

Synopsis: After thirteen failed relationships and a hidden obsession with Mr. Darcy, Jane Hayes receives a gift from a wealthy relative: three weeks at Pembrook Park, a land where rich women can imagine themselves into an Austen story. Jane goes, hoping to kick the desire for her own Darcy for good, but it's just too easy to develop feelings for someone. Even when that someone isn't real.

Notes: I did a lot of laughing during this read. Shannon Hale is, as always, hilarious.

Oddly, the library copy of the book smelled like almond extract, the flavoring used in tea cookies. I'm pretty sure that wasn't part of the printing process, but it did enhance the reading experience.

As for the tale itself: I've never quite understood the concept of a Mr. Darcy obsession. Yes, I love Pride and Prejudice, and yes, Mr. Darcy is a superb hero, but what I loved most about P&P was Elizabeth and the work of her spirits and humor against the odds. And, of course, the happy ending.

But the idea of obsessing so much about Mr. Darcy and Austen's work that you'd compare all men to the former and try to fake an experience of the latter... I honestly had a bit of trouble believing it. Fortunately for the story, Hale's Jane proves too humorous and intelligent, even in her soul-searching, to fully succumb to the romantic fantasy.

The Regency dress-up and etiquette, just for itself, sounded like a blast. I'd absolutely enjoy that for a few days. Especially if it came with horse rides and a little time to practice the pianoforte.

The quests for something real and something permanent—which quests often battled each other throughout the story—won my sympathy entirely. I also loved Hale's Austenian banter, which brought up the pleasure of the novel decidedly. Chick lit isn't usually my thing, but there were times when I lifted my eyes from the page and thought that only Shannon Hale could so nearly pull off Austen's bright moods.

As for the ending, I read it so fast that the first time I had trouble buying into it. Upon a re-run, however, I rather enjoyed the way things worked out. Except for one thing, which I can't reveal because it would mean spoilers. Suffice it to say that it is grossly improper and awkward to ____ in an ____. That crazy little thing called decorum? There are good reasons for its existence.

Stephenie Meyer is making this book into a movie. I have every intention of seeing it. And taking my mom with me.

Recommendation: Read it for fun. With tea cookies.

4 comments:

  1. "The Regency dress-up and etiquette, just for itself, sounded like a blast. I'd absolutely enjoy that for a few days."

    Then I am about to make your day. This is a real thing, albeit for an afternoon rather than multiple days or weeks. Carrie and I have gone for the past couple years. (Which proves 1. You don't have to be rich, and 2. It's quite feasible to talk a husband into it.) Here you are: http://regencymasqueradeball.blogspot.com/

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  2. Eric, that DOES sound like a blast! Needs to be closer to Seattle... but still. Fun. :D

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  3. I think I might like this book too, I'll have to check it out. I agree with you about the whole Mr. Darcy obsession, I don't really get how someone could let a fiction novel sway their love life.

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  4. It's a good quick read, Sarah. Hasn't got the depth of some of Shannon Hale's other work, but I enjoyed it. :)

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