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Review--Austenland, by Shannon Hale

Austenland is the story of Jane Hays, a thirty-two year old woman is is more than mildly obsessed with Jane Austen, especially the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. When her elderly great-aunt dies, she leaves Jane with an unusual and bizarre bequest: a three week vacation to live out of one of Austen’s novels, to step back into the year 1816 and have a romantic adventure of one’s own. It’s a cute, creative premise, but one that doesn’t hold up well in this book.

First of all, the characters were all shallow stereotypes, completely cookie-cutter and unbelievable. It’s difficult for me to believe that Jane could be so delusional and NOT have a good therapist standing behind her. Jane is completely unlike any successful New York woman I know. In addition, her “romance” was completely unconvincing (“Mr. Nobly” needs some acting lessons, it would seem). And bizarre. The setting, both in New York and LA, is vaguely sketched and seems isolated from the outside. And yet, Jane never seems to question anything, just goes along with the playacting. The ending of Austenland should come as no surprise to anyone (except Jane herself).

And, about the writing style: I understand Shannon Hale’s forte is writing YA novels, and you can tell by the writing style of this book. The plot had promise, however—if the book had been about 150 pages longer and the characters and setting had been fleshed out more, it could have been an interesting read. There have been many Jane Austen spin-offs in the past few years, but Austenland was the most disappointing of those that I’ve read.


Anonymous said…
Even though I really enjoyed this book, I'm glad to see a negative review simply for the reason that I haven't read one. I really don't read Chick Lit so I really can't compare but I thought it was a fun book. I think I was trying to not take it very seriously, so I found myself enjoying it.

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