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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Austenland by Shannon Hale: Review

 I received this book as a review copy from Bloomsbury. The book, titled Austenland by Shannon Hale is under the category chic-lit, and rightfully so.

While this is an older book that was published in the year 2007, it's again now been re-published by Bloomsbury as the movie is due for release in September 2013.

Details about the book:
Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Publishers: Bloomsbury
No. of pages: 193
Genre: Chic-lit, romance

My first thoughts when I got the book in my mail and opened it was that wow, it's such a small book...definitely going to be a quick and cosy read. I generally tend to read books that are huge, at least 400+ pages, and most of my books are 500+ pages and with small font. This one, compared to them, was quite a baby when you take into account the number of pages
and the font that's not small!

Before the review, here's a quick look at the first page: READ HERE

Also, here's what the cover jacket says: READ HERE

Jane Hayes is off men. After suffering through a number of relationships that were barely there and never materialised to even a discussion of going to the altar, she knows that love can only happen in the form of Darcy, the essential and forever charmer of a man, the one and only fantasy that she seems to be obsessed with. She is especially obsessed with the BBC-adaptation of the novel and her ultimate man is Colin Firth, who portrays Mr Darcy on screen....Darcy and Colin are both, to her, the epitome of what her man needs to be.

You see, Jane Hayes is a self-obsessed Austen fan or freak, and once her aunt discovers her obsession with Mr Darcy, she arranges for Jane to visit a 'special' resort that promises to cater to all her Austen needs, right till the Darcy-isque heroes.

The aunt arranges for Jane to travel to a place called Pembroke Park, a UK resort (Jane is a New Yorker) that promises to give its guests a Regency-era England experience, complete with Victorian homes, Victorian ladies and gentlemen, carriages, maids, servants, parlours and gardens. Jane is in two minds - on the one hand she wants to come out of this obsession, it's been enough already, and on the other, she wants to still visit the place, hoping that maybe, being there for 3 weeks will be enough to cure her of her obsession...and secretly wishing that she does bump into her Darcy!

So Jane does reach Pembroke Park and finds herself in empire-waist gowns and bonnets and gloves and actually lives through the reality of spending her days in the 'parlour' stitching or sewing or reading and mouthing the kind of dialogues she has read in the many Austen books she is crazy about! 

( Left - The movie poster and cast as it's expected to come out in September 2013)

My Thoughts On The Book:

When I started the book I realised it would be a quick light entertaining read. And quick and light it definitely was, given that I finished it in a couple of hours.

To be honest, I wouldn't say I absolutely loved the book, or that I would be willing to read more in the series (I've read Midnight In Austenland by Shannon Hale as well as this was sent together with this book and the review shall follow soon). I have read Austen's work and of course the main book too, the one with Mr Darcy, Pride and Prejudice.


Mr Darcy as portrayed by Colin Firth, Jane Hayes's obession

I always prefer Mathew Macfayden's portrayal of Darcy though

For starters, I found the book to be too light and easy to read. I mean, that's not really a bad thing, especially for those who are not into heavy reading and prefer quick and light-hearted reads, but that may be the exact reason why this one didn't appeal much to me.

The beginning was quite interesting and fun, but as we moved into Pembroke Park, I realised that the plot was getting overtly-lengthy and boring - maybe this had to do with the fact that the characters themselves didn't have much to do in the book as people in the Victorian era didn't have much to do, except for going hunting and playing cards (the men) and stitching, sewing, reading (for the women). There wasn't much dialogue or plot-building happening, and after a few pages into Pembroke Park, I could feel I was rapidly losing interest. From then, it was a pain actually to keep the interest alive.

I know this is a chick-lit book, but I have read a few from this genre (and I mean only a few, I'm afraid) and maybe that's why I don't really go much into this particular genre of writing - it's just not for me.

My expectations from the Pembroke Park resort were too high I guess, and since I've read Austen's works, I should have been aware that recreating it in these times, when we are far far ahead and fast in our lifestyle, could prove to be painfully dull. I wasn't sure about what to expect, but since now you are, I think you would pick up the book with better expectations.

This is definitely a book to be read on a cosy day, curled up in your blanket, a cup of hot chocolate by the bedside table and a favourite lamp on near the bed. Lose yourself in it, and yes, you will enjoy it too, especially if you have earlier enjoyed light reads that don't need much of your time and thinking.

I don't regret reading the book, I kind of liked it, but won't really be reading something like this again.

2 Hearts: An OK Read


- Debolina Raja Gupta