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Archive for the tag “Jane Austen”

Review: Austenland

When I took out Austenland by Shannon Hale, I was thinking light and fun, a good way to start my Austen in August journey. What I was not thinking was a book I nearly out down because of offense or a philosophical debate in my head.

As I mentioned in Saturday’s Library Loot post, Austenland by Shannon Hale is the fictional tale of Jane Hayes, someone who is Mr Darcy obsessed, and she has been found out by her great Aunt Carolyn. Carolyn bequeths an unusal gift at her passing: a trip to Pembrooke Park to live in the Regency Era written about by Jane Austen.

What’s interesting is that Jane sees Pembrooke Park as the antidote to her Austen obsession. Every man she’s dated is held up the Mr. Darcy standard, and now she has the chance to find her Mr. Darcy. But instead of things become clearer, they become muddier as she struggles to differentiate her Austen fantasies from her reality, and she doesn’t know who is an actor, and who is not.

What really frustrated me about this short novel is that I don’t think Hale does a good job of resolving the issues that she raises. I feel like she dances on the line between judging her character and others because they indulge in this Austen fantasy, and endorsing it. Is it really okay to have your reality so influenced by fiction that you hold every real man you meet to the standards of the fictional Darcy? Is it okay to cheat on a spouse by indulging yearly in a Regency Era romance because they’ve settled for something less than love? Is that what love is…one of the romances out a Jane Austen novel?

Honestly, my perspective is no, none of those things are okay. Jane Hayes herself seems disgusted by the length at which she, and the others at this resort experience have gone to indulge in this fantasy, and yet…well, prepare for the spoiler here… she ends up with her OWN Mr. Darcy. Seriously?! Hale, make up your mind!

I love Jane Austen’s work in both the characters she has created and in the genius of her writing, and I expected this book to be a fun hat tip to that work. Instead, it was an uncomfortable reminder of how some blur the lines between fantasy and reality, and about how complicated it makes life. I give this book one star. And for the remainder of the month, I’ll be sticking to Austen’s actual works. Not some spin off fiction.


Library Loot: August 1-7

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted Library Loot because its been a few weeks since I’ve visited the library for any other reason than to return some items. But this week I needed some fresh material, and some reserves I had ordered came in, so I headed down. Here’s the loot:

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon

I am actually listening to this one, which tells the story of the family who resided in Highclere Castle, where Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey is set. Its more than anything a biography of Lady Almina, but its interesting, and so far I’ve actually been able to put a couple of historical events in perspective in my mind, which I always enjoy.

Austenland by Shannon Hale was actually one I set my sights on even before I signed up for Austen in August. According to Amazon, “Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?” It looks light and fun and totally counts for an Austen in August post.

What about you? What are you reading this week?

Austen in August Announcement

Having finally completed Anna Karenina, albeit just a bit late, I have decided in August to participate in the Austen in August Reading Event, hosted by Roof Beam Reader. After failing to make my last three Anna Karenina posts in a timely way, you’d think I would back off from participating in reading events for a bit, but I saw this one and I just couldn’t resist. The good news is that its a fairly loose structure, and I think I can manage at least two Jane Austen novels, even if August is incredibly busy.

According to the Roof Beam Reader,

“…the goal is to read as many of Jane Austen’s novels as you want/are able, during the month of August.  Biographies and re-reads also count. “

So, I’m in for the following books:

Emma (this one is on my Summer Reading Challenge list…that’s right…bonus)

Sense and Sensibility

A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

Possibly Northanger Abbey

If you are interested in joining the reading event, head over to Roof Beam Reader to sign up.

Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James is one of the most enjoyable novels I have read in a long time. This was an impulse selection from a trip to the library a few weeks ago. A friend of mine had recommended it to another friend…and we’ll after observing thier discussion back and forth after both had read it, I couldn’t help picking it up and reading it for myself.

Death Comes to Pemberley reintroduces us to our favorite Jane Austen characters- Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy, Jane, and Mr. Bingley as they have settled after getting married. But tradgedy strikes on the eve of the annual autumn ball as a coach carrying none other than Lydia Wickham comes careening up the drive, and she tumbles out announcing that Wickham has been murdered.

I have been reluctant to read any of the take-offs based on Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice characters, believing that modern day authors would be unable to capture the ton, and knowing I would be disappointed with the story. So what made me take the risk with this one? Well…the two friends who read this are also Jane Austen fan’s and just as snobby as I am. And if they loved it, it was worth a shot.

And it was more than worth a shot. Death Comes to Pemberley is a fantastic read. P.D. James does a phenomenal job of capturing Austen’s beloved characters, not recreating them, but somehow magically capturing Austen’s voice while weaving in a mystery. The plot was intriguing, the characters well done, and the end not quite what I had predicted. Overall, its a fantastic read, and one I would highly recommend.

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