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Austenland: The Film

MV5BMjE2MTUzMjgyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjY4NDM4OQ@@._V1_SX214_We have viewed the approach of the release of Austenland with very mixed feelings. On the good side, the trailer looked like fun, and Jennifer Coolidge is usually a riot. On the other side, we read the book by Shannon Hale quite a while ago and had a hard time remembering much about it, other than we felt that for a book allegedly about an obsessed Janeite, we did not find the protagonist sympathetic or even likable. With the film coming out, that time seemed to have come to give it another try; and when an opportunity arose to see a preview of the film, it seemed even more pressing. We got through the prologue and part of the first chapter when we decided we had better stop reading until after seeing the movie.

We were hoping for better things from the movie, and were determined to go into the movie with an open mind. The cast looked pretty good, and the trailer made us smile. How bad could it be?

For those who haven’t read the book or kept up with the publicity (which is really quite extensive for a “small” film), the general plot is that the protagonist, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell), is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice–more P&P95 than the book, as far as we can tell, but at one point she volunteers that she memorized the first three chapters of the book when she was a teenager. Jane’s obsession with P&P seems to have affected her love life; she only attracts losers. Any “nice” men, we are shown, are turned off by her insistence on watching the pond scene rather than making out with them, and no doubt by the existence of a life-size Flat Darcy in her apartment. When a co-worker crudely hits on her in front of everyone, rather than report him to HR for sexual harassment, she spends her life savings on a trip to Austenland, where she will have an “immersive Regency experience” and live like a Jane Austen heroine–complete with costumes, a Regency ball, and romance with one of the establishment’s hired actors. Continue reading Austenland: The Film

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Austenland, the Novel: A Review

9781596912854_custom-0253823464e253deda04e02d8445d304f1b4c7e5-s6-c30Having spent several years working in the children’s departments of various libraries, I considered myself fairly familiar with the authors of young adult fiction. I was surprised, therefore, to find Shannon Hale, famous for her adapted and created fairy tales, venturing into Jane Austen’s fiction. A giant, though not far-fetched, leap in my mind. After all, aren’t Austen’s novels ‘fairy tales’ for adults?

On opening Austenland, I found that Ms Hale had, with the style perfected through years of captivating storytelling in imaginary countries, managed to create her own perfect Austen inspired world—or at least, practically perfect in every way, if one can believe the brochure…

The Austenland novels (so far there are two) feature an old English estate that has been transformed into a Regency paradise (think Regency Houseparty on a grand, uncompromising scale). Run by the inscrutable Mrs. Wattlesbrook, it is far from being a Jane Austen theme park, as the title may imply, and those fortunate enough to be able to purchase a visit are able to fully immerse themselves in Regency life (no 21st century trappings allowed) surrounded by upper class, Georgian-style opulence and a cast of actors charged with meeting your every need and making your dreams come true (Capitalist investors, take note! Why has Austenland not *really* been created?)

The story centers on Jane Hayes, a New York City native, who finds herself not only in need of a vacation, but also the recipient of an all expenses paid trip to Austenland, as stipulated in her Great-Aunt’s will. Jane, who carries a torch for Mr. Darcy in the guise of Colin Firth, is reluctant to go, and despite her passion for Jane Austen, finds it difficult, after all, to leave all traces of modern life behind.


Sometimes, she watched Pride and Prejudice.
You know the BBC double DVD version, starring Colin First as the delicious Mr. Darcy, and that comely, busty English actress as the Elizabeth Bennet we had imagined all along. Jane watched, and rewatched the part where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy look at each other over the piano, and there’s a zing, and her face softens, and he smiles, his chest heaving as though he’d breathe in the sight of her, and his eyes are glistening so that you’d almost think he’d cry. . .Ah!
– Austenland

Continue reading Austenland, the Novel: A Review