Thursday, November 7, 2013

AUSTENLAND, by Shannon Hale

It's official. Being a Senior Missionary is the best! We can enjoy leisure pursuits - like reading.

I bought the movie Pride and Prejudice years ago, and much to the chagrin of my daughter, I watched it often. With this said, I still wouldn’t be admitted into the Austen fan club.
I still thoroughly enjoyed Austenland.

Since Mr. Darcy is mentioned often, and with a spirit of admiration or awe, it might be important for a reader to have at least watched the movie once, or read the book, in order to relate.

But who hasn’t?

Poor Jane Hayes. She hadn’t meant to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. She did realize he was a fictional character, and all. It’s just that none of the real-live men that she’d known could hold a candle to him. Why bother, if one can’t have perfection?

Jane’s love life is laughable – and we get a glimpse into her dysfunctional idea of a boyfriend at the beginning of each chapter.

When Aunt Carolyn comes to town, Mom brings her to Jane’s apartment with the idea of sweetening Aunt Carolyn to Jane so she’ll bequeath Jane some of her money when the time arrives.

Aunt Carolyn sees the hidden Pride and Prejudice DVD and knows exactly why Jane is still single. Later, as Mom had hoped, Jane was included in Aunt Carolyn’s will. She is bequeathed a three-week vacation to England’s Pembrook Park.

It’s a place where Austen-obsessed wealthy women go. Most of them are tired of their real lives, and of their real husbands. They’re given new, Austen-y names, and even get to pick their age.

There are plenty of handsome men around—the handsome yet brooding Mr. Nobley, the charming Colonel Andrews, and the newly promoted Captain East – are all actors hired to play their parts and keep the clients happy.

They’re actors, they’re actors, they’re actors. This is what Jane keeps reminding herself, and it’s hard to keep real emotions away from pretend situations, and it appears that with the exception of the well manicured landscape, nothing in this amusement park is genuine.

In a desperate attempt at finding something real that she can put her emotions to, Jane escapes into the arms of Martin, one of the gardeners. But then she realizes that in order to rid herself of her Mr. Darcy obsession she must face it head on.

Jane dons her bloomers and corset, she walks the walk and talks the talk of the proper Austen character, and finds herself in danger of falling in love with the real-live fictional character, Mr. Nobley. However, when he offers the scripted proposal, Jane is finally able to put Mr. Darcy behind her.

Austenland is a fun read – all the awkward moments when Jane is teetering on the edge of make-believe and reality made me laugh out loud. The whole time I was reading it, I kept wondering how Hale would get a proper ending. I needn’t have worried. All questions were answered, and it was a romping good time from beginning to end.