New Jersey in Winter 2013 was one hell of a snowy season. At the time I worked at a company that operated outdoors so when the weather was bad the owner would shut down the company for the day. I spent the majority of January and February on my couch binging Netflix while my boyfriend (now hubby) played Call of Duty. As it happened, I ended up spending Valentines Day snowed in at home that year. My husband had surprised me with some delicious macaroons a day earlier. As I munched on my treats I decided that I really wanted to watch a girly rom com. I recently discovered that I could rent movies online on VUDU so naturally I began scrolling through their new releases. I came across a movie called Austenland, the cover and title alike were seriously eye catching. Once I watched the trailer I’m not sure I’ve ever pressed the rent button faster in my life. Austenland literally made my inner fan girl jump with joy. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, I’ve read all her novels and I typically reread them once every year or two. So I proceeded to watch it over and over until my rental expired but then I bought it digitally. I’ll always fondly remember that it was my first digital movie purchase.
Very much like Jurassic Park, I had no idea it was based upon a book until I went through the trivia facts about the movie. I bought the book Austenland by Shannon Hale and the sort of sequel, sort of stand alone Midnight in Austenland. I began reading Austenland the very next day, almost finishing it.
Jane, a 30 something New Yorker, is unlucky in love. She cannot seem to find a man that lives up to the infamous Mr. Darcy. Her secret obsession with all things Jane Austen all the time are beginning to wreak havoc on her life. When all seems lost, a recently deceased relative gifts her a trip to an exclusive regency era resort. Will Jane’s dreams become a reality or will the reality not be as fulfilling?
I suppose I’ll get right into it. It’s beginning to become a habit: my liking the movie more than the book. In this case, it’s because I really appreciated the additions the movie made to the rather childish protaganist in the book. The movie really is a great rom com and a huge plus for anyone who has dreamed about being in the regency era, it some-what does the time period justice.
The writing in Austenland was extremely mediocre and childish and there just wasn’t enough material. The book was quite short (172 pages) and to be fair I always get disappointed when it’s short. I loved the concept, a regency era/Jane Austen resort, that is a lot of peoples dream resort. Myself included, I wished there were somewhere like that! The writing didn’t translate the amazing concept that Hale created. While other novels such as, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler executed their stories flawlessly. Though Viera Rigler’s concept was quite different her material was appropriately aged while the wonder (that should have been with Austenland) stayed with me for both novels, beginning to end.
The case I’ll make for the childish writing is that in the book Jane is thirty four years old when she meets Martin. There first “date” at his place consisted of them drinking root beer and watching basketball on a staticky tv while they made out. Making out is fun, I hate that making out is overrated, but for a thirty four year to make out and drink root beer is completely tame and honestly, it’s unrealistic. Hale could have at least replaced the root beer with actual beer, even then it’s way more realistic as it isn’t that uncommon for a thirty something year old to get a little tipsy and make out with random dudes at bars. The whole thing sounded like a young high school aged girl hanging out with her first crush alone. If I had wanted to read a book about high school aged kids, I would have picked one up.
Hale needed to get the book rolling, she needed a a reason for this relative to bequeath Jane such an expensive gift. So Hale wrote that this particular relative found where Jane hid her Pride & Prejudice DVD (Colin Firth version, of course.) WHO HIDES A DVD IN A HOUSEPLANT? It isn’t porn! Pride & Prejudice is not an embarrassing DVD. If Jane was so embarrassed by people becoming aware of her deep obsession with Jane Austen then she needed some serious work on her self esteem. It wasn’t until Mr. Nobely declared his love for her by jumping on her plane back home that she finally felt comfortable enough to place it on the shelf with all the other harmless DVDs. That is absolute insanity. No person should ever make you feel that you need to hide a part of your life in a houseplant.
Lastly, I did feel that there was no build up between Jane and Mr. Nobely. I also felt the movie had the same issue as well. Fun Fact: I never saw the Jane/Mr.Nobely pairing coming, I really thought she would end up with Martin. I felt that way because of the lack of build up between them. There were very few flirtatious interactions between the two before Henry declared his love for Jane.
Unfortunately, I dont anticipate ever reading this again but I would probably read something else by Hale. The writing in Midnight in Austenland wasn’t nearly as bad but I didn’t care for the story.