Cannonball Read V: Austenland by Shannon Hale
In Shannon Hale's Austenland, Jane's secret shame is her obsession with Pride and Prejudice (particularly, the epic BBC movie with Colin Firth); when her great-aunt discovers this, Jane is given an all-expenses paid trip to Penbrook Park. Penbrook is an English country manor, all trussed up in everything Austen and stocked with actors doing their best to fill the Regency fantasies of their guests.
For the next three weeks, Jane will live and breathe the world of corsets, strolls in the garden, and embroidery projects that look more like a mess of knots - on top of navigating a charming gardener willing to break a few of the many rules (how very George Wickham of him) and Mr. Nobley, one of the actors who is giving his very best Mr. Darcy face.
The plot is pretty simplistic and if you know your Austen, you can easily figure out how things are going to go (even not knowing your Austen, you'll latch on fast). Luckily, Shannon Hale makes it easy to root for Jane to grow up (and out) of her Darcy/Firth obsession - she's a sharp woman who happens to be in love with what a fictional character represents. Who hasn't been there? We all have some sort of measuring stick when considering a potential love interest, but what happens when we're forced to re-evaluate those romantic expectations? Not to get heavy-handed over a bit of chick-lit, but Hale lets us meet that challenge through Jane, with wit and well-timed moments of clarity.
Also, I think this may be a case where the up-coming movie could actually elevate the plot and characters. There's great potential for some smart sight-gags and the cast is rather promising.
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