When her great-aunt bequeaths her a trip to a role-playing resort called Austenland, Jane must discover whether playing dress-up in Regency clothes can cure her of her Colin Firth obsession and help her find real love, once and for all.
I have to admit that I was somewhat skeptical of this book, since loving Jane Austen has reached epic levels of popularity these days. I couldn’t really watch the Keira Knightley version because I can’t stand her, and didn’t think she deserved to get to play Lizzie/Darcy at all (foot stamp). Plus her last name is Knightley? Is she trying to hog all the good fictional men? I mean, seriously.
Anyway, Austenland is a lot of fun, because author Shannon Hale is super smart and super funny. Apparently she has also written a bunch of YA books that I want to check out as well. What’s great about Austenland is the way she keeps Jane moving between being cynical about the whole faux-Regency experience, and giving into it altogether. Imagine spending 3 weeks playing let’s pretend–it’s a little weird, but you have to admit that you kind of want to wear the clothes, right? Hale gets that dynamic and exploits every corner of it, to great comedic and even romantic effect. I found myself feeling quite personally invested in Jane’s love troubles, and hoping that the right man would win.
The structure and plotting is superb as well, with a late-in-the-game plot twist that I certainly didn’t see coming. All of Jane’s mental asides are clever and funny, and even poignant, and overall the book is wonderfully written and a charming read.