Monday, October 22, 2012

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale

This is the first book I have read by Shannon Hale.  Indeed, my kindle boasts at least 6 of her books and yet I am just now discovering the wonders within.  It was witty and in fact I laughed out loud at one part to which my husband said simply, “It’s good.” 

Austenland follows the quick narrative of Jane Hayes.  She is obsessed with Dr. Darcy and in fact all things Jane Austen.  She is also ashamed of her Austen obsession.  She has lunch with her Great Aunt Carolyn, and said aunt arranges for Jane to visit Pembrook Park.  At Pembrook Park, visitors completely immerse themselves in 1806 or 1809 or somewhere abouts.  The give up all technology, and dress, act and speak as if they are in fact in 1809.  There are others there, like Jane who are visiting for 3 weeks.  And the rest are actors, paid to give the guests whatever experience they want. 
Jane is embarrassed to be at Pembrook Park.  She eventually goes for the gusto.  There is some feel of not knowing how far the farce goes at times.  The reader (at least this reader) wondered how many people were in on farce. 

For Jane, there are two love interests.  Mr. Nobley, who actually presents as “Mr. Darcy” and Martin/Theodore the gardener who she sneaks off with to have forbidden technology with.  My one complaint with the book was that Jane vacillated between them even until the end!    
I have two favorite quotes for this book for there were parts that were rather profound and parts that made me chuckle:

-“At a very young age, she had learned how to love from Austen.  And according to her immature understanding at the time, in Austen’s world there was no such thing as a fling.  Every romance was intended to lead to marriage, every flirtation just a means to find that partner to cling to forever.”

-“I, uh…”  She stopped to laugh.  “I wasn’t aware until this precise and awkward moment that when startled in a strange place, my instincts would have me pretend to be a ninja.”  Mr. Nobley put the back of his hand to his mouth to cough.  Or was it really a laugh?  No, Mr. Nobley had no sense of humor.  “Excuse me, then, I probably have a secret mission somewhere.”

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