Book Review: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale

Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2007

Genre: Adult fiction

My Rating: A


Jane Hayes is single, thirty-three-years-old, with a successful career as a graphic illustrator. Jane can also be described as a devotee of Jane Austen, although it’s hurting her love life. That’s because she compares every man to Mr. Darcy – the Colin Firth version.

Jane also tries to keep this obsession a secret but her great aunt discovers it. When her great aunt dies, Jane learns she has been given a three week trip to a vacation destination in the English countryside. It’s purpose is total immersion into Jane Austen’s world.

When Jane arrives at Pembrook Park she finds a manor house, horses and carriages, and actors in clothing of the period. Everyone plays a part, including the guests, and the events are typical of the Regency time period. Jane learns to play Whist, the gentlemen go pheasant hunting, and the only books available are the books that were around in Jane Austen’s day.

Most of the guests are women hoping for an Austen-like romance. The gentlemen present at Pembrook Park appear to have come out of one Jane Austen’s novels. The only problem is this: When you start falling in love with one of these men, are you falling in love with the character or the actor playing the part? How could this experience help Jane’s future love life? Is this what Jane’s great aunt was hoping for?

My thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed Austenland. I was able to immerse myself in Jane Hayes’ world, even when I wasn’t reading the book. It gave me some fun things to think about. It wasn’t heavy reading yet it had substance to it.

I especially enjoyed the dialogue between the characters at Pembrook Park. They all did such a good job of talking and behaving “in character,” even when Jane tried to challenge them. There were a couple of characters who didn’t exactly stick to the script, but they were easily forgotten.

I kept thinking about how difficult it must be to recreate the total Regency era experience. For instance, how do you keep airplanes from flying over, and how do you justify modern plumbing and other items that modern travelers expect? I put myself in Janes’s spot and thought it would be nearly impossible to not check on friends and family, or work, or keep up on current events. I would have to have an iPhone!

For me the fun of the book was the struggle between being in both worlds. I fixated on that. I wasn’t so concerned with the romance side the story. I was pretty sure Jane Hayes could figure things out on her own – and she did.

This was a good book for Jane Austen devotees as well as lovers on contemporary romance. This was my third Shannon Hale novel. Now I’m on to the next one. Several have recommended Princess Academy. I also saw a review yesterday on BookFan Mary’s blog for Midnight at Austenland. It sounds like a good follow up to Austenland.

About the author:

Shannon Hale is the author of five award-winning young adult novels, including the bestselling Newbery Honor book Princess Academy. Austenland is her first book for adults. She and her husband are co-writing a series of graphic novels, and live with their two small children in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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12 Responses to Book Review: Austenland

  1. Mary says:

    I also enjoyed Austenland. I read it in 2008 so I’m a bit sketchy on details but Midnight in Austenland brought back a lot. A fun novel.

  2. JoAnn says:

    I read this in early 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed it, too. I even gave my daughter a copy for Valentine’s Day!

  3. I bought this eons ago and haven’t made the time to read it yet. Going someplace like Pembrook Park, for a little while, sounds like a lot of fun to me.

  4. Well, you saw what happened to Jane when she tried to keep (and hide) her phone! :–)

  5. Barbara says:

    I wonder why the reincarnation of Jane Austen after so many decades of ignoring her completely? Is it just that we’re sick of our world’s problems and want to escape to Austen’s English countryside? Maybe.

  6. kaye says:

    I kept thinking about those things too–how they could possibly pull it off. I kept wishing I could have three weeks at Pembrook. Enjoy Princess Academy.

  7. Amused says:

    I do love Jane Austen mashups and this sounds like one that’s too good to miss!

  8. I enjoyed Austenland and want to pick up the new Austenland adventure at some point. I loved Princess Academy.

  9. One of my favorite lines ever in a book review = “It wasn’t heavy reading yet it had substance.” Pretty much describes what I look for in fiction.

  10. Beth F says:

    Believe it or not, I think this was the first review I posted on my blog. I really liked this one too — a fun Austen spin-off.

  11. Staci says:

    I loved Austenland and have the follow up on my Kindle (you can get it on NetGalley). I LOVE LOVE LOVE Princess Academy. I recommend it at least 5 times a month and each student comes back for more!!

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    So, do they need to be read in order? This looks fun.

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