Austenland Series - Book 1

By Shannon Hale

Bloomsbury - June 2008

Women's Fiction

Jane Hayes had an obsession. Colin Firth, or rather Colin Firth as Mr Darcy in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Oh, she liked to think she was leading a normal well adjusted life, but there were times when she had to admit that her fixation might not be heathy in her own love life, or lack thereof. So when she inherited an all-expenses (and quite expensive at that) paid vacation to an immersion Jane Austen experience, Jane decided to go all out for one final goodbye. When she returned, there would be no more Mr Darcy in her life.

It was 1816, and Jane was now Miss Jane Erstwhile. After some fittings and instructions, she arrived at her "aunt" and "uncle's" home at Pembrook Park. But she wasn't the only visitor in attendance, and so it went. This was a full immersion experience where even the smallest contemporary infraction was frowned upon. In addition to other customers, the home was staffed with actors. Jane enjoyed the experience, watching everyone's interactions, and seeing hints of the different Jane Austen stories. But Mr Nobley was one character who seemed quite put out with the lot. Was it his part, or the man himself? She didn't know how much of what everyone said was truth or fiction, and sometimes needed an escape to reality. Only to find an unlikely confidant in Martin who played Theodore the gardener.

Austenland is one of the few non "romance" novels I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I am a Jane Austen Movie fan, alas, I have not read the books, but I don't believe that caused any detraction from the story. I felt that how each chapter began with a tidbit of Jane's romantic entanglements through the years only added to a better understanding of her fascination with an ideal Mr Darcy. The park itself was entertaining, as were the colorful attendees who were repeat customers. The focus of Austenland was on Jane's growth, and I could definitely see how by the time she would leave, she could always appreciate Mr Darcy, but was a complete woman on her own. Of course, this is Austenland, and all things Jane Austen, so readers will hope that she might find love too.

Kathy Andrico -