We all had our obsessions and pretty soon ‘ringers’ will have an actual hobbiton, complete with a pub, to visit. Shannon Hale imagines a place for Jane Austen fans to visit and live out their Darcyesque fantasies.
Austenland tells the story of Jane Hayes, reluctant artist, stuck in a job she doesn’t like and has relationships that don’t work out. Her solace is watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as the penultimate Mr. Darcy. (Sorry Matthew MacFayden, but we still like you as Tom Quinn.) An inhertance allows Jane to visit a special resort for Austen addicts to live out their regency dreams. Will our heroine find true love amid costumes and actors playing regency parts?
I took a chance on this book for the premise alone and after hearing it will be made into a rom com movie. (Jamie Callis from Battlestar Gallatica plays the actor who plays a Darcy-type character. Here’s hoping he took notes from Colin Firth while co-starring in Bridget Jones’ Diary.) I needed a little bit of lighter fair after going through book two of Song of Ice and Fire. The book’s outlandish plot stays simple to remain plausible with a few chuckle moments through out the book. It does read as a love letter to Jane Austen and Colin Firth in the influence of the mini series and novels on the hopes and dreams of women. (Let’s face it Colin Firth could crash the message boards a la Richard Armitage in no time flat.) The book also works hard to say fangirls have a place in the Austen universe, but obsessions do not. I thought Shannon Hale did a good job of allowing Jane to examine her Austen fixation and its impact on her love life. The message is not to completely dump the mini-series and live in the real world, just put the medium on a proper shelf in order to live in the present.
The novel itself is not a long, only 208 pages, but it’s perfect reading for cold winter nights. Just remember the first three letters of the author’s name and get thee to the nearest fiction section of your library.