Monday, February 25, 2013

Adult Fiction Review: Austenland


Hale, S. (2007). Austenland. USA: Bloomsbury.

[Genre: Romantic Comedy]

I'm a bit of an Austenite at heart, always keeping an eye out for new adaptations and thoughts. So it's no surprise really that Austenland has been on my radar for a few years now. It made it into my TBR Pile Challenge list this year simply because I had picked it up for my kindle on-the-cheap in an Amazon sale.

Jane Hayes is a New York graphic designer with a secret. She's obsessed with Mr Darcy. Or should I say, she's obsessed with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. And it's beginning to ruin her life, because no other man can come close to the perfection she's built in her head. Then a wealthy relative bequests her a trip to Austenland, a full on make-believe regency fantasy, and her dreams of Mr Darcy just might come true.

You know those movies that are awful, but you watch them with your best friend and laugh the whole way through them because them being that awful and awkward just makes them hilarious? For me, Austenland was that movie in book form. It's like a car crash you can't stop watching. Jane Hayes is something that our dear Jane Austen would have rolled over in her grave just thinking about. So all-American girl that it's cringe worthy, with a string of dead-end relationships in her wake. It's no wonder she's obsessed with Mr Darcy. Each chapter of Austenland is prefaced with a short description of one of Jane's previous conquests and there's not a decent one in the lot. She heads into regency fantasy world Austenland, only to be met with a cast of characters and setting that is completely laughable, or at the very least made so by the ridiculous set of rules she has to follow (no contact with the outside world, no references to the outside world etc). You can understand why Jane struggles to fall head first into the fantasy, no matter how much she was mooning over Mr Darcy. The ending of the novel is convoluted and overly dramatic, though does have a touch of sweetness.

But despite its faults, Austenland is just fun. I smiled at the ending and the next day found myself reading it again. Passages I rolled my eyes at during the first reading I think back upon with affection. It's not a particularly well written book, nor is it that original. But its the type of book you can easily sink into for a couple of hours, have a laugh (and an eyeroll) and come out unscathed on the other side.

2 Stars, for now.

Be warned: the film version of Austenland is likely to be released later this year (a date has yet to be set, the film was picked up by Sony for distribution after Sundance).

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