Reader Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale


Austenland Review by academichussy

Most books that deal with Jane Austen in some regard that are not mainly academic or at least well researched tend to fall flat on their faces. And Austenland by Shannon Hale is no exception.

Ms. Hale, who up till now wrote young adult books and is making the move to adult fiction, hasn’t really quite grasped the concept of “adult” fiction. The advanced reading copy is a mere 195 pages from start to finish and I finished the book in a few hours. The premise, about a young woman dreaming of her own Mr. Darcy (and who seriously hasn’t?) seems to lack the sophistication that an adult book should have. The main character, Jane, is supposedly in her early 30s, but there is no depth to her and her actions sometimes feel as though she IS indeed a teenager struggling with her hormones. At times I felt like I was imagining Jane popping big pink pieces of bubblegum and twirling her hair around one finger.

The concept, I’ll give Ms. Hale, is a good one. It was an idea I had been toying with myself (as I’m sure that there are others that have toyed with the same), but overall, the book is just one big piece of fluff with very little substance. And call me pedantic, but on the very first page she refers to Jennifer Ehle not by name but as the “comely, busty English actress.” Ehle, as we know, is an American despite the fact that she’s lived and worked in London for many years.

Either way, it’s not that this little gem is a bad read, but if you love Jane Austen or are even remotely familiar with the Regency era, this is just crap. They are also cross-promoting the book in the YA market, which makes sense to some degree, but seriously, knowing how huge the Austen-pop culture has become, why on earth are they marketing this for adults when it is clearly not geared to us?