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on 13 May 2013
Hooked from the start. Loved the idea of a themed hotel, a different twist on the usual Austen based books. The story worked well and kept me guessing until the end. At times I found myself forgetting which century we were in. I don't think the quotes were ever meant to be entirely accurate, they just add to the story. Looking forward to reading the next book.
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on 26 July 2017
Just the place and fantasy I want to escape to, loved the movie too which is in keeping with the book (if not better)
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on 2 March 2017
Better the movie
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on 13 May 2013
The heroine is sent, thanks to a bequest from her great-aunt, on a kind of kill-or-cure immersion into the works of her favourite novelist (although she seems to prefer Miss Austen on dvd). Which is an interesting start...but quite frankly after that there is not a good deal of plot. I was left wondering how on earth Austenland could survive if they averaged only three guests at a time, unless the fees were perfectly astronomical...
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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 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 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 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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VINE VOICEon 3 February 2012
As a big Austen fan I was excited to read this book, I love the idea of Austenland where you can pretend to be a character in one of the books. I liked Jane, with her Mr Darcy obsession, and determination to get over it and concentrate on real life. She is bequeathed a holiday at Austenland by her great aunt and sets off to England to see if it will help her move on from Mr Darcy. She finds a strange mixture of people, some fellow tourists and others actors playing their prescribed parts. As she struggles to adapt to the way of life she begins to develop friendships, but are they real friends or just acting? This is a great, light-hearted read and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of both Austen and chic-lit.
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