Saturday, October 6, 2012

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

Sadly, I heard decent things about this book from a few people...but after reading it and wondering if I was just being overly critical, I looked at the Amazon reviews and understood that wasn't the case.


To begin, I have to say that the main character - not-so-aptly named "Jane" - was simply not likeable for about 70% of the book. Unlike some reviewers, though, I do think that she seemed to grow and change a bit throughout the story, though I will agree that the ending could have been better written in order to continue showing this growth and change.

The thing is, Jane's supposed "obsession" with Pride & Prejudice/Jane Austen is barely even mentioned outside of her owning the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice DVDs. Other Austen works are mentioned only in passing, and this was, in my opinion, nothing more than bad development of this particular plot point - which is kind of a major plot point as it's the reason Jane is sent to Austenland in the first place.

On top of that, I have to ask - what was up with the painting thing? We were given little to no information about Jane's day job at first, and we never read anything about her having been any sort of painter or artist - until suddenly she gets to Pembrook Park and not only starts relating everything to painting, but then actually begins painting...and the reader is just supposed to believe that she used to paint all the time, without any backstory about her being an artist - to that extent, at least.

We were also given little asides about Jane's past boyfriends that were completely unnecessary - most weren't even amusing or in any way realistic, and to me it just felt like filler. Perhaps it was supposed to be comedic relief, but again - they simply weren't amusing enough to be true comedic relief. That said, there were a few things that I was pleased with in this novel - mainly, the history, customs, and clothing of the Regency period were obviously very well-researched (even if Jane's discomfort in said clothing was glossed over as if it didn't happen at all). And there's a little twist at the end that I wasn't quite expecting, and it left me feeling a bit refreshed - until the main character reacted like her old self would have and completely undid all that learning and growing she'd experienced at Pembrook Park.

I think that the premise of this novel was a good one, at least to an extent, and I wish that the author hadn't followed so many silly tropes and basically undid all the good she accomplished with the high points of her story. 2/5 stars.

"That was her problem...she'd always lugged around an excess of hope. If only she were more of a pessimist, she wouldn't have to grapple with these impossible whimsies..." Pin It

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