Book ReviewAustenland

Reviewer's Rating: 
This book was so good I'm going to throw a brick through the bookstore window so I can have my own hardcover copy RIGHT NOW!
Bloomsbury, 2007

BOOK ONE: AUSTENLAND SERIES. Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen--or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I loved, loved, loved this book and the movie recently made (perfectly cast with Kerri Russell and JJ Field).  I love the entire concept of this book and think it would be a grand success should someone actually run with the idea and build Austenland for real.  Maybe Stephanie Meyer is the girl for that trick - she and her Twilight millions were the pushing force behind turning this 2007 sleeper book into a feature film.

To put my own personal light on this review, yes, I do own all of Jane Austen's books and have read them twice, but no, I do not harbor longings for Colin Firth's portrayal of Darcy....(I pause with lots of little dots for the haughty gasps of many a Colin Firth/Darcy loving female)  I prefer the 2005 movie version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden.  Scandalous, I know.  Throw all the tomatoes you want ladies, it never made sense to me why Elizabeth Bennett would prattle on after Darcy says, "My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever."  Keira remains silent, smiles and takes his hand in hers (probably ensuring he cannot run away when she says, "You're hands are cold" granted, not the most intelligent thing to say to a proposal, but sweet nonetheless).

Fans beefs aside, this book does what many others have not, encapsulated a setting and plot that many a female would love to have as her own autobiography.  Jane Austen's books are famous with females because we'd love those stories to be our own.  To be able to slip into the skin of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and be strong enough to say no to foolish men's proposals despite a future of poverty and then bag a love match to the tune of 50 thousand pounds a year?  HELLO!

Shannon Hale has captured us with that same magical sigh of, if only. 

There are some notable differences between the book and the movie - some I quite liked, other parts I missed and wished I could have seen played out.  But both the book and the movie are top notch entertainment and perhaps if not Matthew Macfayden, now the newly minted Darcy of JJ Fields is in the running for a whole new bevvy of Darcy loyalists.  To that I can only say, Tallyho!

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