Tuesday, July 28, 2009

6. Austenland by Shannon Hale

When I started my current job years ago (2003, to be exact), I made quick friends with another girl in the office named Sarah. We bonded over Desperate Housewives, the constant ridiculousness of co-workers, and our love of reading. As I recall, she even tried to recruit me to watch Arrested Development when it first came on. Great girl, Sarah. Always looking out for me. A lot has happened since we first met: We both left the company (although I came back after about a year), we both got married, and she now has two beautiful children (who I would love to meet someday!). Facebook helps us keep in touch, and when I posted a status asking for book suggestions, she left a comment saying that I had to read Austenland. Knowing Sarah, I put it down on my list without a second thought.

I don't know if this will surprise anyone, but I'm not a big Austen fan. I read Emma about 12 years ago, and my sister Mollie helped me place the characters in the context of Clueless. Mollie actually just recommended that I read Pride & Prejudice this year, so maybe I will become an Austen person. Maybe. Anyway, I don't think my lack of Austen awareness had much effect on my enjoyment of this novel. This is the story of Jane, a thirty-something singleton who has been burned by romance too many times. She finds herself relying more and more heavily on the fiction of Jane Austen, to the point that she's not sure any man can live up to her fantasy. A relative bequeaths Jane an all expenses paid vacation to a resort that transports you to 1816. Three weeks of living in Austen's time? Jane is unsure if this vacation will help or hurt her, but in the end cannot resist.

I really loved this book. It's very well-constructed, giving you bits of Jane's romantic history throughout as well as insight into her relationship with her mother -- all of which could reasonably be expected to lead to Jane's current predicament. You empathize with Jane, as she struggles between indulging her fantasy and trying to break herself of it. The writing is exceptional. Hale takes a quirky concept and makes it very relatable, and keeps the pace and tone lively. This is a quick read at under 200 pages, and definitely worth your time. I highly recommend it!


Hyacinth said...

Hey Maggie! I recommend THE GOOSE GIRL by the same author. It's an extremely adorable fairy tale novel. I think you'll like it. On a Jane Austin side note, I'm currently reading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. I had to :).

Magnolia said...

Ooh, I will add it to the list!

Maybe I'll read Pride and Prejudice and then read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I read somewhere that that book set off a new trend, and more supernatural Austen books are going to be coming out soon.