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Austenland by Shannon Hale
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Aug 01, 11

Read in July, 2011

Jane Hayes is so stuck on the image of Fitzwilliam Darcy that she cannot have a relationship with a “real” man. Her great aunt Caroline recognizes this, though Jane seems oblivious, and gives her a unique bequest in her will – an all-expenses-paid three-week vacation at Pembrook Park (i.e. Austenland). There Jane will live the regency period romantic fantasy that she’s held dear since she first read Pride and Prejudice at age sixteen.

I read Hale’s The Princess Academy and enjoyed it, so was expecting a decent “chick lit beach read.” This book, however, didn’t do it for me. The writing was hackneyed – for example: “The silence quivered.” Also, the lead character was just too poorly drawn. I can forgive the other cardboard characters she finds at the estate, because they are all actors playing a role (and quite poorly in some cases – e.g. Sir Templeton) and are supposed to be obvious. But Jane, herself, seems so clueless, so out of it, so one-track, that I just couldn’t stand her and really didn’t care whether she ever got her act together. Also starting the chapters with a short description of each of her past boyfriends – from age 4, no less - was just useless!

Katherine Kelgren’s reading on the CD is pretty good, considering the material she has to work with. Although her accent gets confused with Miss Charming, I think the character was written that way (she’s a Southern woman who is trying to affect a British accent and doing quite poorly at it). At least she moves right along and doesn’t drag it out.
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