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3.6 out of 5 stars137
3.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 February 2014
I am a Jane Austen fan, read everything she wrote, enjoy the adaptations. So, I could not have pass on the opportunity to read "Austenland" after I watched the film by the same name.

"Austenland" the film is somewhat enjoyable, and occasionally funny. The book, while being different from the film (not so funny, I thought), still provided light entertainment (alas, there was no Jennifer Coolidge). The whole Jane Austen and Mr Darcy obsession of the main character felt completely believable to me, yet the flimsiness and silliness of heroine when it came to men in her life spoiled the book for me. Same with the romance - there was really no believable chemistry between the leads, but a lot of sentimental gibberish sprinkled with weak attempts at regency. I think the idea of "Austenland" retreat sound good when thought of and discussed, but was not executed to its full potential. The whole actors playing falling in love with rich ladies who pay money to wear Nineteenth century dresses felt somewhat surreal to me...

It is not a classic, it's not Jane Austen, it's not an attempt at a regency novel, but a typical chicklit book sprinkled with regency drama, a very light entertainment. Do not expect a vivid historic drama or a heart-breaking love story. That said, it's only 208 pages long and the cover is exquisitely designed. I would not mind checking out the second book of the series.
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I am always fascinated by Jane Austen related books so I had to give this one a try. The idea is an intriguing one. Jane Hayes is obsessed with all things Austen. Her great aunt feels she will never find happiness unless she gets over her obsession and stops comparing every man she meets with Mr Darcy. When she dies she leaves Jane an all expenses paid trip to England to spend three weeks in a country house living like Jane Austen's heroines did to try and rid her of her obsession.

Jane is renamed Jane Erstwhile and finds herself amongst a group of people - some of whom are actors and some are, like her, on holiday. She is kitted out with appropriate clothes and given a whole sheaf of instructions about how to behave. At first Jane finds it all a bit difficult and considers giving up and going home. But then she finds herself sinking into the whole experience. I thought the tension between the real people and the fantasy was very well done. I did enjoy the book and like Jane I found myself confused between whether people were acting in character or being themselves. I loved the idea of `Austenland' and wonder whether there really are such experiences available.

Overall this is an intriguing book and I liked the characters - especially trying to work out whether people were acting in character or being themselves. The dialogue was realistic and could have come from an historical novel set in the early 19th century. I found the emotions Jane experienced convincing and I loved the ending - it's absolutely perfect. Yes there are minor inaccuracies but they didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book.
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on 2 February 2013
Jane is willed a holiday in Austenland by her great aunt who observes her obsession with Pride and Prejudice and her lack of successful relationships - Austenland where you can live out your favourite Jane Austen book fantasy in costume, manners, outings and men. At first Jane is ambivalent about immersing herself in the fantasy and tries to find something real to cling on to but she then decides to live the fantasy to its fullest in an effort to say goodbye to her desire for a Darcy ideal man.

The idea of the book is good but the plot is thin and there is not enough character development. The romantic ending is predictable but still surprising because the attraction between the characters is not shown with sufficient strength.

There are a few glaring mistakes such as the character who says he is from Sheffield and therefore obviously supports Man U!

A sweet book, but the idea could have been built into a better and more satisfying result.
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on 25 August 2010
I was a little hesitant about buying this book, as some of the reviews are not good at all. Eventually, I decided to give it a shot, and it was money well spent. The right mix of silliness and feel-good, with the true passion for Austen that makes it feel inspired. For all the Mr Darcy lovers out there...and all those who'd like a light but good summer read.
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on 20 August 2015
... unfortunately this time the book is not better than the film. Having recently watched the movie and thought it was hilarious, I figured I would read the book in the mistaken belief that the funny fan-fiction in the "reading to each other" scene might be an indication of what I could find in the original source. That was not to be, and instead I discovered that Jerusha Hess must have come up with quite a lot of the funny dialogue and incidents in the film, as they certainly don't appear in the book.

I'm trying not to be too harsh as the idea is really fun and interesting, I just feel Hale didn't quite have the comedic ability or imagination to pull it off. Hale tries to emulate Austen's witty, biting narration but falls flat (if the book had been a blend of that and the film's script I would have been very pleased indeed); Jane hardly connects with anyone, seems quite shut off and observes from a distance all the time; and essentially nothing really happens. Because Jane is given nothing to do, makes no real friends and starts to feel that life for a Regency lady must have been very restricted and unexciting, I started to feel that way about the book. The film is so different and so vastly improved - fast-paced, funny, lots of activities for Jane to do, friendships and alliances being built or broken - the book reads like a very very poor relation and not very Austen-esque either.

However, had it been packaged as a novel about self-reflection and -discovery with Regency role-play thrown in I would have had different expectations that I'm sure it would have met.
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on 27 May 2015
I thought this was a very good idea for a book but it just didn’t come off; I think the style of writing and general fluffiness/lack of development of characters had a lot to do with it. I found it very difficult to get into.

Jane Hayes is a 30-something American with an unhealthy Mr Darcy obsession, an ancient aunt and a disastrous romantic history. In her Great Aunt Carolyn’s will she is bequeathed a trip to Austenland – an English retreat where it is possible to thoroughly immerse yourself in the whole Jane Austen experience, complete with bonnets, embroidery and, if you are very very lucky, Mr Darcy himself, maybe? Jane jumps at this chance with the intention of getting it all out of her system so that she can move on in life. I couldn’t understand what Jane had to be so unhappy about – her life seemed pretty good to me.

At the beginning of each chapter we are given a synopsis of one of Jane’s failed relationships which reveal desperation, silliness, immaturity and in some cases not even a relationship, just an obsession. She doesn’t seem to be a functioning adult – instead she seems rather crazy – and her life is incomplete without a guy in it. But therein lies the problem, none of them will match up to Mr Darcy – or Colin Firth – it is very confusing which is which.

Arriving in England and Austenland she is given an 1814 makeover, a new name and introduced to all the other characters. This is not done very well and I found it difficult to really know the other players in the story. There are clear parallels with Pride and Prejudice with characters being assigned the Wickham, Lizzie, Darcy, Mrs Bennet roles etc but it just did not work for me. My favourite was Aunt Saffronia who I did feel was real, but I could not say that for the rest of the cast and it was a great disappointment. The three week stay zipped by and felt confusing. Was there really any character development? I couldn’t say, not even for Jane. The humour fell short of the mark and as for Martin from Sheffield supporting Manchester United, well, that would never happen. Take it from a Sheffield lass. Either Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United, never Manchester United. The ending is predictable, but I didn’t get the reality behind the ending. It seemed vapid and built on nothing.

My three stars are for Aunt Saffronia, the fabulous book cover and for having the good idea in the first place. The missing two stars are for failing to execute the story all that well.
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on 19 August 2013
This was a must buy as I love books about Jane's world. However this I found hard going. Nowhere near as good as Victoria Connelly's books in a similar vein. Shame really as I looked forward to reading it.
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on 3 November 2013
I was disappointed in this. It was very hard to get into, very American- I know the heroine was American, but the England she visited was not English! It did get better as I went along, funny mixture of froth and serious but the writing was not good enough to pull either style.
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on 3 February 2014
This is a really nicely written book that sweeps you from all your modern day troubles and whisks you away beautifully to the turn of the last century. Jane Hayes, is a thirty-something single girl who’s obsession with Jane Austen and particularly Pride and Prejudice gets her an all-inclusive paid for holiday from her Great-Aunt upon her great aunt’s death to Austenland where she is swept into this era for three weeks. Shannon Hale's excellent writing skills got me so immersed in the book and the characters that I finished the book without even putting it down. It is a beautifully written piece which is humorous and brings the characters to life so well, I can completely understand Jane Hayes’ obsession with Pride and prejudice and in particular Mr Darcy (the Colin Firth version) is naturally understandable; I mean what red blooded woman doesn't want a Mr Darcy in her life? I also completely understood Jane’s enthusiasm and reluctance warring with her over her experience, should she immerse herself fully into the experience to rid herself of her obsession once and for all, or keep it real and keep a touch with reality? Should she fall for Mr Nobely the sour looking actor or the charming and real gardener Martin? This is a pleasant romantic comedy that has me wanting to go off to Austenland for my own adventure and to experience life and love the good old fashioned tummy flipping, butterflies dancing with a simple hand on my back way and not the all too revealing, and often unnecessary full on sex way. Keep up the great work Shannon, your book was like a breath of fresh air in this otherwise polluted world we are currently in.
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I came upon this book after hearing about the film that has been made of it, currently on limited release in cinemas, but (from what I hear) likely to move fairly swiftly to DVD. The story sounds intriguing: a modern-day American going to a (fictional) Jane Austen themepark. Well, in the book at any rate it's not really a theme park; it's an exclusive country house populated by actors where a very small number of Jane Austen obsessives can live out their Regency gentleman-related fantasies.

It's all very proper, but also quite fake, and mildly comic. A good deal of the fun and confusion comes from not knowing when characters are acting and when they are sincere, and from the reality of the present day continuously showing through the Regency veneer. But it's an escapist romance within an escapist romance, so the ultimate payoff of the book isn't too hard to imagine. It's frothy and light, and good fun without being at all taxing. I'm not sure I'd want to read any more of the series (yes, there are sequels), but as a standalone novel, it was good fun.

I listened to the American audiobook version, which comes on 5 CDs in cardboard packaging. It's read by Katherine Kellgren, who is a New Yorker but who studied at RADA, and who manages to switch between American and British accents without any apparent trouble (although Martin's Bristol/Sheffield working class accent is more than a bit of a pastiche). It's a spirited reading, giving about 6 and a half hours of listening - more than enough to keep you amused on a trip from London to Edinburgh.
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