Last week I learned about a new book, 'Austenland' by Shannon Hale, when a short description was posted on the Janeites list.
Yes, I'm a fan of Jane Austen. I'm not obsessive, and I'm certainly not a scholar, but I do enjoy reading all of her work and some of the biographies, comments and critiques. I also enjoy reading sequels and other related books, although I don't necessarily like them all and I rely on my local public library for many of them for that reason. But I won't be reading the new book that suggests that Mr. Bennet had autism!
Anyway, Austenland seemed like nice, fun reading. Here is the blurb I saw.
"Diane Hayes seems to be a normal young New Yorker, but her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in "Pride and Prejudice," is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. On a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane' s fantasies of meeting the perfect gentleman suddenly become more real than she imagined. Shannon Hale's bestselling young adult novels (Goose Girl, Princess Academy)portend great fun for readers - Austen fans or not - of her first novel for grown-ups."
At first I was thinking I would rush out and buy it, but a quick look at the Amazon reviews made me think library instead, and sure enough it was in processing and I put it on hold and had it in my hand within 4 days.
To start with, if I had bought it, I wouldn't have been upset. It was a fun read thatI was able to finish in one day (with the usual family interruptions). It was quite funny to read the lines the actors at the resort were given to create the Regency feeling for the visiting women. The author was obviously familiar with Austen's work because many of the characters, scenes and plot stories were based on things from the novels. It was a fun challenge to be able to pick out the Austen novel or character that was the inspiration.
While there were many enjoyable and silly parts to the story, it was also interesting to follow the main character, Diane, as she wrestled with what was real and what was fantasy. As Diane comes to grips with what it might be like to live at the time of Jane Austen and what she wants from her real life, you get the sense of personal growth that Austen's characters actually go through in the novels (Even Fanny Price grows a bit, thought many critics don't agree).
All in all, I would recommend this book if you enjoy Austen sequels or Regency romances. If you don't like the Kiera Knightly P&P, you probably won't like this book.