Austenland by Shannon Hale

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As a Book Baby, I prefer to read a book before the movie adaptation, but it’s not always easy to keep up when thousands of books are published every year. I normally cut myself some slack when a book to movie adaptation completely skims below my radar, but I can’t seem to forgive myself for this one. Why? Well aside from being a Book Baby, I fall into that wonderful pool of Jane Austen addicts. Pride and Prejudice was the novel that pulled me into the literary world at a young age. I have read all of Austen’s books and plenty of adaptations, spin-offs and sequels by other authors. Even though I am on constant lookout for Austen related material, I failed on epic proportions.

I didn’t know Austenland existed. It wasn’t until the movie adaptation was already out on DVD that I discovered it. The concept of this novel was tailor made for a girl like me, and I was clueless (yes, I’m aware of the reference to the 90’s movie adaptation of Emma in that sentence).

Hale took every Austen addicts greatest dream and put it into a smartly crafted novel. I am Jane Hayes (but without the merched-out bedroom). So where’s my Mr. Darcy stand in? I’m not afraid to admit that I definitely googled Austenland to see if it was a real place… I was prepared to skip work and book my flight for the next morning. Sadly, no such luck. So now I just reread the novel and watch the movie when I want to fall for Mr. Nobley.

The characters in Hale’s novel are easily loveable. Jane is a depiction of the exaggerated fangirl. Even if Austen isn’t your obsession, the reader can still relate to her enthusiasm and love for something beyond herself. Fangirls and fanboys can be found around every corner, be they open or secret obsessions. The way Jane behaves, speaks, and connects to others is all influenced by her fangirl obsession. She may be on the extreme end, but that’s what makes her amusing, humorous, and it drives the storyline as she learns to separate her reality from Austen’s  fiction.

If I’m being honest, I actually preferred the movie adaptation of Henry Nobley to the book. In the movie, he is the nephew of the crazy woman who owns Austenland, a professor who only acts as one of the gentlemen as a favour to his aunt who is short staffed. The book makes him slightly less interesting by making him one of the actors who has worked for the owner for years. It’s cute that he gives up his job to be with Jane, for she is the one girl who is different from all the rest. But that’s a bit predictable, don’t you think? I like it how the movie surprises you by making Henry an outsider to the whole charade. He falls for Jane on his own, and not because he was originally being paid to.

The book is perfect for a good swoon. Everything plays out beautifully for our modern heroine as she embarks through the Regency Era. The subtle humour used to poke fun at the ridiculous nature of the women who visit Austenland, and the actual concept of a themepark for Austen lovers, will make you laugh and wish you had the chance to try it for yourself. It’s like Disneyland without the rides (expect at the end of the movie… got to love Miss Charming’s imagination).

Speaking of Miss Charming, I do believe that Jennifer Coolidge makes the movie even funnier than the book. She’s just so absurd that you can’t help but laugh at every word she spits out. Georgia King, Ricky Whittle and James Callis are also highly amusing. While reading the novel, I wasn’t able to imagine these characters as well as the movie portrayed them. In fact, I think I’m going to rewatch the movie right now… I need a good chuckle.

Even though I seem to enjoy the movie more than the book, I’m still hoping you all read Hale’s novel! It’s one if the better Austen related novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading. So five it a read… and then watch the movie! 

Enjoy, Book Babies!

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