Austenland by Shannon Hale: C

From the back cover:
Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her life. No real man can compare. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly becomes more real than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, stripped of her modern appliances, Jane throws herself into mastering Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen—or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to vanish. Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

With humor, charm, and perfect sympathy, award-winning author Shannon Hale delivers a novel that will delight every reader who has ever dreamed of escaping into Austenland.

I hesitate to unequivocally declare this book awful, because it certainly had a few lines that made me giggle (“Argh,” Jane arghed.) but it’s pretty durn crappy. I’d not read any Hale before, and I worry this experience will tinge my perceptions of some YA fantasy I have by her.

Jane, the protagonist, is incredibly annoying. She’s 33 and yet behaves quite like Mia from The Princess Diaries, if that gives you any indication. She is forever swearing about how from now on things will be different in some new way, and of course she paints, and of course the real actors fall in love with her ‘cos she’s not at all like the typical sorts of ladies who frequent the resort, etc.

Most of the supporting cast are bleh. Miss Charming, one of Jane’s fellow visitors to the resort, is revolting, made even more odious by the audiobook format. I did quite like Mr. Nobly, however. He’s Austenland’s Darcy equivalent, and is the only one of the characters to be at all interesting, even though we hardly learn anything at all about the actor behind the role.

The ending is ridiculous, complete with people running after Jane in the airport and everything. I therefore predict that this will be optioned as a film.

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