Monday, February 3, 2014


In Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale once again proves her stuff as a master storyteller. Hale took the same setting and many of the same characters from her first Austenland novel, and spun it into a completely different tale. Good job.

I got to meet Shannon Hale at the library here. Now that we’re friends, I just have one thing to say. Shannon, can I be you? Minus the twins. My sister has twins, and besides I don’t want to start with having young children again. I really, really wouldn’t want the Abraham’s Sarah experience, from the bible. Whoa there! I just want to spin a tale that readers rave about. One that makes readers marvel and sigh, and say, “I want to write like her!”

Midnight in Austenland:

Charlotte Kinder is nice. She’d been nice all of her life. She married a nice man, James, and had two nice children, Lu and Beckett. After the kids got old enough that they didn’t think Mom was all that interesting, Charlotte grew a simple idea into a prosperous Internet business and discovered she was also cleaver.

Unfortunately, Charlotte wasn’t cleaver enough to keep her husband interested. She blamed his cheating on herself. Of course she did. All nice people do. When Charlotte and James divorced, and he got half of all her money, Charlotte realized that he’d been cheating on her for a while.

Enough of that though. This story is about a middle-aged woman tainted by life. Beaten by the betrayal of the very man who was supposed to love and protect her. Betrayed by the two children who were supposed to adore her forever. The audacity. They grew up, and didn’t.

It’s a universal fact that toddlers and children adore their parents with a hero-worship love. It’s also a universal fact that once they hit middle-school that adoration melts into something less discernible as love. Mom is a swear word, and swear words are cool.

Let it be said; Her previously perfect life was stomped into the dust of nothingness.

After she found a long-lost “bucket list,” that she’d written as a kid, and discovered the bottom item, read Jane Austen, Charlotte did. And loved it.

But a person cannot live vicariously though novels of the 19th century forever. When Lu got angry with Charlotte for spying on her boyfriend, and swore she hated her mother, Charlotte realized one thing: she needed a vacation.

You got it. She booked a vacation at Pembrook Park, vacation destination for all Austen enthusiasts.

This is not the ordinary Austenland, however. Charlotte and the other guests/employees become involved in a story of the nearly disintegrated Abby nearby, and how all of the nuns were found dead with no reasonable explanation. Everyone suspected young Mary Frances, who was the sole survivor and who always refused to talk about the incident.

During an innocent game of Murder in the Dark, Charlotte comes across what she believes is a real, dead, body. When she takes the others to see it, Charlotte can’t even find the room, and of course everyone thinks it’s part of the script.

Colonel Andrews is an expert at entertaining and he is thrilled that Charlotte is “into” his game.

In a land where nothing is as it seems, it’s easy for Charlotte to convince herself that the “murder” is all part of the entertainment. Especially since each visitor’s story is written to their specifications, and as with all Austen novels, Pembrook Park visitors can expect a little love story mingled in.

Charlotte continues investigating the pretend dead body as part of the Abby Mystery. As she gains more clues, things start looking more real and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
In the second homage to Jane Austen, Pembrook Park is the same, many of the actors are the same and they still have their duty to entertain the guests. Miss Charming is there. Seems she’s adopted Pembrook Park as her new home. The grumpy Mrs. Waddlesbrook is there as is her husband.
This is where the story similarities to Hale’s previous book, Austenland, end. I won’t give away the story. Just know it’s a good one.


No comments: