Mimi's Reviews > Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
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's review
May 25, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: adult, book-club
Read in February, 2012

I liked Austenland, but I actually liked this one even more! Perhaps it is because of all the Northanger Abbey gothic themes. And perhaps it is also the Agatha Christie ties that won me over, because growing up I read a lot of her novels. I'm not sure why, but Christie was one of my favorite authors as a teenager. Now I don't really like reading murder mysteries, because they make me somewhat paranoid, but I did enjoy them then! Anyway, back to the novel.

I felt like the parts dealing with the main character's divorce were really real. Hale did a very good job communicating Charlotte's pain and confusion regarding her husband's choices.

"'I'm worried about what this is doing to the kids,' Charlotte confessed to James when he stopped by the house to pick up Lu and Beckett for the weekend. . . .

'I don't know,' said James. 'They seem fine to me. And it's not as if divorce is uncommon. Over fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. I'm sure at school they're just one of the crowd.'

Could that statistic really be true? Among Charlotte's acquaintances, about 10 percent of the marrieds had divorced. Before James left, divorce had seemed distant and improbable. Besides, statistics felt as irrelevant as a nice wool blanket in the vacuum of space. Let's look at a mother who is standing in a hospital waiting room, a doctor telling her that her child has died from a rare disease. Is it a comfort to hear that only one in five million children contract it?

Some postdivorce statistics: 1. James saw the children 75 percent less than before. 2. He missed 85 percent of their afterschool woes. 3. He was absent for 99 percent of their family dinners.

Screw statistics. One hundred percent of Charlotte's marriage had ended in divorce, and for her, that was the only number that meant anything at all."

And I laughed out loud a few times.

"'Did he tell you who was supposed to be the new murder victim?' said Charlotte.

'I would not tell you if he had,' said Eddie. 'That would spoil the fun.'

'I think it's Mrs. Hatchet or Mr. Wattlesbrook. Colonel Andrews would pick someone obvious. I need to figure out if they've really gone or disappeared under mysterious circumstances, that sort of thing.'

'Have you been reading Gothic novels, Charlotte? You know what Mother would say. Women should not indulge in dark fantasies. It disrupts the proper workings of the womb.'

Charlotte snorted and coughed at once, she was so surprised. 'The proper workings of the womb?'

Eddie was trying very hard not to laugh. 'Indeed.'

'Never fear, protecting my womb from Gothic novels is my first priority.'

'I'm much relieved.'"


(view spoiler)

I thought that Hale did a beautiful job with parodying Jane Austen. I loved the Gothic satire, the wit, the swoon worthy men, the beautiful dresses, the amazing British mansion, and the mystery. I loved how everything ties up so neatly in the end to give all the good people happy endings and all the bad people not as happy endings, just like Jane Austen would have liked. The ending might not be completely believable, but it was summarized and tied up in Austen fashion, I thought.

I didn't know why the few references to the way some characters "swung" were necessary. And there was a tiny bit of mild innuendo that felt out of place with the cleanness of the rest of the novel. But it was very mild.

The insanity was interesting.

I liked this quote: "A woman without hobbies is dangerously self-negligent."

I really enjoyed the novel. It is one that I would read again.

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