Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Column 14

Jane Austen is the quintessential chick-lit author. She is the original. Before Sophie Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” series, or Jennifer Weiner’s “Cannie Shapiro” books, there was Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price are the original feminist heroines of literature. How can you read about these strong women, and the men they love, without falling in love yourself with the very idea of Regency-era romance?
    Even though Jane Austen has only six full novel titles to her credit, there are so many people who have tried to duplicate the Jane Austen experience. There are those who have written sequels and prequels to each of the six novels. There are spoofs of her books. There are books about people who love her books and books about people who obsess about Jane Austen and her life.
    This week’s book is about someone who wants to escape into that Regency time period of “turns around the room,” gallant men in breeches, and women being saved by tall, dark, handsome men—of considerable means—on horseback.
    In “Midnight In Austenland” by Shannon Hale, Charlotte Kinder is recovering from a disastrous marriage and wants nothing more than to escape to an immersive Austen experience where actors compete for her affections and cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies.
    While “Austenland,” the first in this series, was strictly a romantic comedy (which is currently being made into a film), “Midnight in Austenland” mixes things up a bit with a murder mystery twist.
    Of course, there is a great deal of humor in this book. I love Hale’s wit and the way she writes her characters as flawed-but-endearing women. The self-deprecating humor makes the reader root for the heroine from the beginning and hope that she can find the love that she craves in the fantasy world of Jane Austen.
    Perhaps you have heard of Hale and read some of her young adult fiction like “The Goose Girl” and “Princess Academy.” These fantasies are great reads if you are looking for a fairy tale. With “Midnight in Austenland,” we see a different side to Hale. The writing is geared toward adults, and the main character is a strong, adult heroine.
    While nothing beats the real Jane Austen, I love these fun Jane Austen-like add-ons and adaptations. Hale does not disappoint in this category!
    In general, I quite enjoy Hale’s books written for adults. This is the third of her books aimed at an adult audience, and I rush to get a copy of each one as it is released. Besides the two books in the Austenland series,  there is also “The Actor and the Housewife,” which is one of my favorite books. I can count on it for a great laugh and a good cry.
    If you like Shannon Hale’s young adult fiction but are looking to branch out, “The Actor and the Housewife” and the Austenland series
 should be the next books on your list!   

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to read this one! I am the biggest Jane Austin fan! Thanks Jenny...love your articles!