Austenland by Shannon Hale

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.

9 thoughts on “Austenland by Shannon Hale”

  1. I loved the comedy in this book. It had me rolling, which is something romances often don’t do. 🙂 (I read the Peter-Peter-Pumpkin-Eater scene to my girls, and even they laughed. And then wanted to learn the tune.)

    You really should read Hale’s other books. They’re just as good.

  2. Hi! Love your Who Am I? section. That’s quite impressive reading The Princess Bride at 6. I read it when I was 11 and a teacher saw me with it and was quite disapproving. It was then I knew that teachers sometimes don’t know what they’re talking about. And I can definitely relate to not wanting to read the next books in your stack. I never know what I’ll read next until the current book is done. It’s an organic process. 🙂

  3. Glad to see you’ve given this book a good review. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. (I debated buying but I guess I’ll wait for the library copy….) Shannon Hale is a favorite of mine. She visited our library a couple of summers ago and I’ve loved her ever since!

    Coming to you from the blog roll game!

  4. Hey! Happened across you while looking for a good sum-up of this book for my family’s book review blog (, in case you’re wondering where I’m linking you here…). Hope you don’t mind that I used yours –and, if you do, I will remove it! Thanks for the quick sum-up and for imbuing my evening with a little humor! ;D

    (Oh, and incidentally, I HIGHLY recommend The Goose Girl and Book of a Thousand Days if you haven’t gotten to them yet. In my opinion they are Hale’s best books by a long-shot.)

  5. I found this review while looking for the book. I will borrow it from the library this week end !
    I know the review was written 4 years ago so hopefully since then, you have been able to watch the 2007 version of Pride and Prejudice . I am not a BIG fan of Keira Knightley either but Matthew Macfayden is so incredibly good in the role of Darcy that the movie is worth being watched just for him.

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