About the Book
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.
Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?
Hale's Austenland is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality, set in an idealized Regency manor house where women can emulate Austen's world.
The main character Jane is all too relatable in her obsession with all things Austen - but especially Mr. Darcy. She goes to Austenland intending to get over her unrealistic expectations of finding a real-life Mr. Darcy, but gets swept away by the romances and intrigues that seem half-pretend, half-real.
Her Elizabeth Bennet-like exchanges with the actors and other customers are a delight. All of the characters are interesting, from the ridiculous "Miss Charming" and her "toodle pips" to the gallantly rakish Colonel Andrews to Mrs. Wattlesbrook, ever-watchful for infractions against the true Austen Experience. Despite all its drawbacks, I wish there was a real (affordable) Pembrook Park to vacation at and enjoy the Austen Experience myself!
Hale skillfully balances humor and drama, fantasy and reality. When Jane talks with the broody and Darcy-esque Mr. Nobley, is she speaking to the character or the actor? Do the actors enjoy spending time with her, or is she the latest drudgery of work?
Austenland was a thoroughly enjoyable book, a must-read for anyone who dreams of visiting Austen's world.
Now you can watch the movie.