Austenland -- Shannon Hale

Dear Shannon Hale,

I admit it -- I wasn't so sure about this whole you-writing-a-grown-up-book thing.  Well, you win.  I'm convinced.  So, you've got my okay to go ahead and write whatever you want.  You want to branch out into sci-fi?  Mysteries?  Horror?  Totally cool with me.  You write it, I'll read it.


Jane Hayes is a single thirty-something whose prospects of romance have been ruined by the Firth/Ehle Pride and Prejudice:Austenland: A Novel

Sure, Jane had first read Pride and Prejudice when she was sixteen, read it a dozen times since, and read all the other Austen novels at least twice, except Northanger Abbey (of course).  But it wasn't until the BBC put a face on the story that those gentlemen in tight breeches had stepped out of her reader's imagination and into her nonfiction hopes.  Stripped of Austen's funny, insightful, biting narrator, the movie became a pure romance.  And Pride and Prejudice was the most stunning, bite-your-hand romance ever, the kind that stared straight into Jane's soul and made her shudder.

It was embarrassing.  She didn't really want to talk about it.  So let's move on.

So embarrassing, in fact, that she's taken to hiding her P&P DVD set in a houseplant.  Due to her lack of a green thumb, the plant doesn't provide a whole lot of cover, but it still makes her feel a little better about her obsession.

Jane's extremely wealthy (and elderly) great-aunt finds the set, discovers Jane's Secret Shame, dies, and leaves her a non-refundable three-week vacation at Pembrook Park -- a resort for rich Regency era addicts -- or as Jane comes to think of it, Austenland.

She tells herself that she's going to Pembrook to kick her Darcy habit -- but deep down, she's hoping for a real Austen romance.

Okay, I might be a little bit dense, but I didn't realize that I was reading what could be described as a romance novel until I was about halfway through.

And when I realized it, I didn't even mind.

It's just adorable.  Definitely my favorite modern take on Austen.

As for crossover appeal, I think that older teens who dig Austen, well-written chick lit and lighter grown-up reads will like it, but younger Hale fans might not identify much with the characters.  For those who want to try it anyway, it's pretty clean.

Hooray.  I want to go home and read it in the bathtub.  Or while eating pizza.  Or ice cream.  Or sitting out on the back deck in the sun, if the wind would calm down a bit.

Hooray, hooray, hooray. 

Oh, and don't miss Shannon Hale's letter to Colin Firth.