"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jamie has asked my opinion on this book more than once, as have a few other people. I haven't been ignoring her inquiries, I just keep forgetting. So, to stop looking like I am avoiding this, and since I don't feel the desire to tackle Princess Sparkley and force her to do her math lesson for the day (subtracting with tens and ones), I'll share my little opinion with you now. Only interrupted by the need to plug Baby X's mouth with his binky occasionally as he's napping next to me, has freed one had from his baby burrito bundle and uses that one hand to repeatedly pluck said binky from his mouth... even while appearing to be snoozed.

For those of you out of the loop (usually myself), Shannon Hale is LDS. She graduated from the University of Utah. I've only read one other book she's written, The Princess Academy which was a Newbery Honor book. A great book. I even bought it for my book loving niece for her 8th birthday (it's written for more the pre-teen crowd would be my guess).

Austenland, as you can imagine from the title, deals with Jane Austen. It reminds me a lot of Bridget Jones's Diary, but cleaner, and more fantastical. I don't remember anything especially R-rated about BJD, but the movie was R-rated, so maybe there was something in the book and I've just forgotten. It's basically the same story as any modern day Jane Austen connected book, a thirty-something girl is obsessed with Jane Austen, more specifically Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth included). She compares all the men she meets and dates to Darcy and therefore, has been rather unsuccessful in the love department. She ends up with a two week trip to a sort of Austen resort where she dresses and plays apart along with other guests and actors. There's a Mr. Darcy of sorts, love, misunderstandings, etc.

I liked this book. It was fun and quick and entertaining. I'm also not a huge Austen or Colin Firth fan. I've read that devoted Austen fans hate the book (I'm not sure about devoted Colin Firth fans). I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and absolutely hated it. I read it again for a Literature of Women class in college and loved it. And I've read it again, for fun, since then. Once I discovered that I actually like Jane Austen, I've read Persuasion and Emma, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. But that's all I've read so far. And I didn't see the Colin Firth, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice until sometime last year. [And due to the library I checked it out from having lost one of the two dvds in one of their sets, I watched it backwards. Starting with disc two, then realizing I needed to check out the second half, then realizing that "the second half" was in fact the first half. I just thought the people who made the movie had decided to tell the story in a different order, with flash forwards and flashbacks, etc.]

Back to the book. It wasn't highly intellectual, but that isn't often something I require of a novel. I like books for entertainments sake. It's like watching a movie for escapism or fantasy. That's what a book is to me. So I enjoyed this story. Although I didn't thoroughly enjoy the ending. It seemed abrupt and weird and still sort of left you hanging. That aside, it was a fun read.

But now I'm curious, Jamie, and others, what did you think? I'm worried that Jamie has read it and thought this was the worst book written and is right this minute forming a new opinion of me. Have you read it Jamie, or were you just picking my brain to see if you should waste your time?

As for picking of brains, has anyone read Eat, Pray, Love? What did you think? I keep checking it out from the library and having to return it before I get around to reading it because there's a waiting list. Is it a must read?


The Man Your Husband Is Worried About said...

You totally forgot to include this in your review:
A few months ago your husband read about this book in a catalog and showed it to you and told you he thought you might find it interesting. You blew him off. Then, a couple weeks later, a friend of yours told you about it and you read it and liked it. Luckily, your husband is the forgiving type. Also luckily, he's a tiger in the sack.

Erin said...

I totally agree Nancy--fun and entertaining. I don't know why Austen fans would hate it. It really isn't pretending to be anything but an entertaining read. But of course I am a big Colin Firth fan....

Jamie said...

okay, I had to go back and read what I had written about the book. It's basically the same thing. I was disappointed with the ending. It was really abrupt and hurried or something. I thought there could've been a lot more to the story. So while I didn't LOVE it and feel satisfied, I did get a quick little "chick flick" romance fix out of it. Kind of mixed feelings about it really. I think she could've developed the characters a lot more. I guess then it would've been as long as Jane Austen's novel. I did think that Shannon Hale would've done much more with it since her juvenille fiction was so thorough. Does this make sense?

Before Cougar Video closed, they were selling all their edited movies. We got a bunch. Both Bridget jones', Love Actually, some others. They are fun to watch. I'm guessing we aren't missing all that much from the edited scenes. Then Jake has issues with edited movies altogether because of the whole art vs. morals thing. I don't know. Anyways, thanks for FINALLY doing a review. :) I thought maybe I was the only one taking crazy pills because of the ending.

Nance said...

Jamie- Why aren't you my next door neighbor? Every we visit family who have all the movie channels, or just regular tv and the capability of Tivo-ing of sorts, I search all the shows for the next few weeks for Bridget Jones's Diary and Love Actually. I think I read BJD just because the movie was so popular, bt rated R. And we're obsessed with Hugh Grant so I was mad when Love Actually turned out to be rated R. Plus, Hugh is in BJD too isn't he? I forgot. We watch About A Boy and Two Weeks notice all the time

Jamie said...

I would love to send you copies of the 3 movies. We totally watch Love Actually as a Christmas tradition now. Unless you are opposed to burned dvds and that whole issue, but I would love to send them to you if you want them. Suddenly I feel like putting this out "there" on the internet is going to bring trouble to my door.

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