by Shannon Hale
“Well do I remember the first night we met, how you questioned my opinion that first impressions are perfect. You were right to do so, of course, but even then I suspected what I've come to believe most passionately these past weeks: from that first moment, I knew you were a dangerous woman, and I was in great peril of falling in love."
She thought she should say something witty here. She said, "Really?”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every girl must occasionally read fun frivolous girly books. Equally true, every great author needs to write them.
Shannon Hale, author of The Goose Girl, a fantastic book, has written a delicious, indulgent, smart, and surprisingly genuine girly book. Jane Hayes, graphics designer, is obsessed with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (in a ashamed, hide-the-dvd-in-her-plants kind of way). To cure her of this, her great aunt Caroline bequeaths Jane a trip to Pembrook Park, a Jane Austen resort where women go to live in the world of Austen, surrounded by actors (specifically gentleman actors) to play the parts of Austen-like heroes: the brooder, the jovial rake, the common-man-turned-successful-sea-captain). Jane struggles with the dichotomy (real or not real?), and feels like a desperate, sad, ridiculous women, but then, things begin to turn around. Is she deluding herself, as always, or is she being offered something real in Austenland.
DAMN, this book was surprisingly good. I swear, I came home today and read the entire thing in one sitting (minus a chapter or two yesterday). It was so refreshing after reading books where I care about style and serious things. It was like exfoliating! Scrubbing off the slough of academia and large fantasy tomes to revel in a little bubble bath.
And yet, this book surprised me with it's depth. Yes, the plot is predictable, so is the plot of almost any romantic comedy. I began with the book at arms length, judging Jane for fangirling, and the being weirdly ashamed about it. But as the story continued I was sucked in, and became totally invested in her story, squeeing and crying out in emotional agony at the appropriate moments.
This is a must have for anyone who a) has the Austen fever and b) has ever fantasized about being swept off your feet by the guy of your dreams in a romantic setting. I'm looking at all of you, ladies.
PS: It is also a Movie.