Books inspired by Jane Austen's novels are numerous?there are at least a dozen sequels to Pride and Prejudice alone, not to mention more loosely based adaptations like Bridget Jones' Diary?and an Austen biopic scheduled for release in August will doubtless spur even more homages to the beloved English writer. Should you be interested in this ever-growing genre, allow me to direct you to the best Austen tribute since Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club: Shannon Hale's clever and imaginative Austenland.
New Yorker Jane Hayes is adamant that her obsession with a certain BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's most famous work has nothing to do with her inability to find lasting romance. And she's not at all embarrassed by the fact that after each relationship ends, only multiple viewings of her trusty Pride and Prejudice DVDs will make things better. So unembarrassed, in fact, that she keeps them carefully cached in a neglected potted plant?until Great-Aunt Carolyn stumbles on them and calls Jane out on the dangers of letting dreams of Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy get in the way of true happiness.
When Carolyn passes away six months later she leaves a surprising legacy for her great-niece: an all-expenses-paid trip to Pembrook Park, an estate in Kent. There, Jane will spend three weeks living the Regency lifestyle, complete with corsets, empire-waist dresses, witty repartee and men in breeches. Despite having resolved to embrace spinsterhood (and destroy her P&P DVD set) after her trip, Jane can't seem to escape romance. A tall gardener and the inscrutable, slightly snobbish but nonetheless attractive Mr. Nobley show interest in her, but both are employees of Pembrook Park. Is either man revealing his true self?
Hale's charming first book for adults (she is also an award-winning young adult writer) is chick lit with soul. Though there's a laugh on nearly every page?Hale, like Austen, is adept at subtly skewering the ridiculous?there's also the more serious story of a woman learning the difference between fantasy and reality, and discovering that real life can be better than your dreams. Is there a better message for a summer read?
Trisha Ping received her first copy of Pride and Prejudice from her grandmother. Copyright 2007 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 February #2
Yet another player in the literary parlor game of re-writing Jane Austen.From the dedication to Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries, Hale, author of YA novels (River Secrets, 2006, etc.), lets the reader know her tongue is firmly in cheek. Hale's heroine, Jane Hayes, is a single New York professional with a secret passion for Pride and Prejudice--not the novel, but the more over-the-top romantic screen versions, particularly the one starring Firth. Shortly after her Great-Aunt Carolyn discovers Jane's obsession, the old lady conveniently dies, having bequeathed to Jane a three-week stay at Pembrook Park, a fantasy version of a Regency England country estate (modern plumbing, but no cell phones allowed). Temporarily re-christened "Miss Jane Erstwhile," Jane soon finds herself plopped into the center of several Austen novels rolled together. Her fellow guests are the pathetically needy "Miss Charming" and the gentle, genuinely charming "Miss Heartwright." Knowing that the hosts and male guests are clearly actors does not keep Jane from confusing fact with fantasy. As she resists the falseness of the situation, she falls into a contemporary fling with Martin, an actor playing a gardener on the estate, with whom she watches television and makes out. She also finds herself drawn to "Mr. Nobley," a Darcy stand-in. But is it the character being played whom she's attracted to? Or the man playing him? The novel is clever in its depiction of the many ways in which romance can fall away, and Jane is no fool as she attempts to sort out the real from the make-believe. Readers will be as surprised as she is by some of the twists. But ultimately this is a romance novel in which lovers who are meant to be together overcome miscues and misunderstandings before the final clinch.Mindless froth that Austen addicts will love. Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews 2007 April #2
In her first novel for adults, Newbery Honor Medalist Hale (Princess Academy ) puts an intriguing twist on Austenmania by writing about a Jane Austen fantasy camp tailor-made for Colin Firth obsessives looking for their very own Mr. Darcy. Jane Hayes has the history of bad experiences with men typical of all chick-lit heroines, so she's resigned herself to a life of clandestine viewings of Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version, of course). Her wealthy Aunt Carolyn discovers her obsession and leaves Jane a fascinating bequest: a trip to Pembrook Park, a Regency-themed retreat where actors play out women's romantic fantasies. Jane adopts the identity of Miss Jane Erstwhile, dons her corset and gown, and experiences life as a Regency lady. She falls for a gardener--a big no-no at the camp--while also finding herself strangely attracted to cranky, distant Mr. Nobley. The hijinks that follow are entertaining if predictable (especially for P&P Austen fans). An amusing trifle likely to please chick-lit readers and Austen aficionados who enjoy modern twists on the author's classic tales.--Nanette Donohue, Champaign P.L., IL[Page 72]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
In 32-year-old singleton Jane Hayes's mind, no man in the world can measure up to Fitzwilliam Darcyâ€"specifically the Fitzwilliam played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice . Jane is forced to confront her Austen obsession when her wealthy great-aunt Carolyn dies and leaves her an all-expenses-paid vacation to Pembrook Park, a British resort where guests live like the characters in Jane's beloved Austen novels. Jane sees the trip as an opportunity for one last indulgence of her obsession before she puts it "all behind herâ€"Austen, men, fantasies, period," but the lines between reality and fiction become pleasantly blurred as Jane acclimates to the world of Spencer jackets and stringent etiquette rules, and finds herself torn between the Darcyesque Mr. Nobley and a forbidden tryst with Pembrook Park's gardener. Though the narrative is endlessly charming, Jane is convincing neither as a sarcastic single girl nor as a romantic idealist, and the supporting cast is underdeveloped. Nods to Austen are abundant in contemporary women's fiction, and an intriguing setup and abundant wit are not enough to make this one stand out. (June)[Page 59]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-- Thirty-three-year-old Jane Hayes, who has a fairly serious addiction to the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice , inherits a trip to Pembrook Park, Kent, England, the location of a resort where guests dress, talk, think, and act in ways that Jane Austen would approve. Refusing to lie about her age, even on vacation in a place right out of Austen's England, Jane finds herself quickly overcoming the obsession with Mr. Darcy that may very well have jeopardized her 13 "relationships" over the years. Left to walk in last to dinner, mildly obsessed with one of the hotel's gardeners, and annoyed by another guest's overeager attempts to bag a man, Jane is eager to return to Manhattan. Then she decides to give it all one more chance, since Great-Aunt Carolyn did see fit to pay for the entire vacation. Hale does a lovely job with the tale of a single woman who would appreciate a genuine shot at love. The book is well written, quite readable, and the myriad characters, especially those working at the resort, are quirkily funny. Given the immense popularity of Jane Austen's novels among teen girls, this book definitely has cross-over appeal.--Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, CA[Page 179]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.