A Review of Austenland (Booking It – September Update)

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This month for Booking It, we decided to do something a little different. We all three read the same book and are giving three perspectives on the novel, Austenland by Shannon Hale. It started out with Carrie sending out the link to the trailer of the movie version, and then Anne sharing her not-too-positive opinion of the book.

Anne Says:

Trust me on this one: when you write a blog called Modern Mrs Darcy, you get a lot of Austen-ish book recommendations in your inbox. After the fifth person emailed me gushing about Austenland–long before any talk of a movie version–I decided to give it a try.

It’s quite possible I was a victim of my own inflated expectations, but I found the book really disappointing. It’s fluffy chick lit, and while I think there’s definitely a place for that on my bookshelf, life’s too short for mediocre books, and this is one of them.

It did have some redemptive moments (I especially love the way Hale gently pokes fun at Colin Firth’s devotees), but if I had it to do over again I’d skip the book and get my three hours back.

Despite all this, I’ll still see the movie. I’m a Keri Russell fan, and judging from the trailer, it looks like they’ve dramatically altered the plot (which is actually a plus for me this time). (Fun fact: Russell was six months pregnant during shooting. Thank goodness for those empire waist lines!)

Jessica Fisher Color by Sharon Leppellere - smJessica Says:

I read the book, I suppose because Carrie sent me the link to the trailer and Anne said she hated the book. She declared this rather vehemently, I might add. So, I guess I felt like I had been dared to like it. Ha!

And I did! Ha! I checked it out from the library and proceeded to devour it in a Saturday. I couldn’t even read it on the Kindle, so that says something. It wasn’t like I was trapped on the treadmill at the gym and needed something to divert my attention from absolute boredom. Instead, I sat trapped in my chair, wanting to know how the book ended.

I really enjoyed it and was pleased with how it ended. If I found myself in the place of Jane Hayes, would I ever go to a Regency-era immersion experience? I doubt it. But, I enjoyed living it vicariously. Because I’m a dork like that.

Now, at first glance, I liked the trailer and thought I’d go see it. But, after reading the book and rewatching the trailer, I’m having second thoughts. It had a limited release in mid-August and doesn’t appear to be coming to any San Diego theaters near me, so I’ll have to wait for the Redbox or Amazon Prime. But, it does look like it will be hilarious with a large dose of cheese.

Carrie's HeadshotCarrie Says:

I picked up a copy of Austenland after both Anne and Jessica read it and required a third-party tie-breaker. Based on our rather eclectic book tastes, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but being a fan of Austen (though not of Austen fan-lit), I decided to give it a chance. Starting with the assumption that I might not like it, I was pleasantly surprised to find it quite enjoyable.

I wasn’t looking for great literature (this would not qualify), but it required very little brain power – perfect after a long work week – and I read it in an afternoon. The plot, while not outstanding or overly full of surprises, was cute. I appreciated the twist of the gardener (didn’t see that coming), and the idea of dressing in costume, ditching technology, and experiencing life in an era, now long gone, is an interesting one; albeit, not one that I will be signing up for anytime soon!

Do I plan to watch the film? I might consider spending $1 on it when it comes to Redbox. Would I recommend the book? Well, if you’re looking for light fiction with an Austen touch, some humor, and a happy ending, Austenland absolutely does the trick.

In case you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can check it out here.

What did YOU read this month?

– Anne loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She puts a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy

– Carrie adores culture, coffee, books, British mystery shows, and her husband of 13 years. She’s spent time in Africa, southeast Asia, and Alaska, and now works from home as a social media book launch project manager. In her spare time, you can find her blogging at Carrie’s Busy Nothings and What’s On My Nightstand

– Jessica is a married mom of six kids, aged 4 to 15. Most can read independently which means the homeschool experiment is working – at least on the literacy front. She has been a lover of books for 39 years and counting. We won’t count the first year of life. She runs this here show called Life as MOM.

Tell us what YOU’VE been reading.

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  1. Funny to wake up, hope on fb and have this post from Life as Mom as my first link to click of the day! And because it said something about Austenland – which I read last month, decided I’d check out the opinions myself! For me, this year has been a mix of classics and fiction books to read. As well as some interesting choices from the book-club that I have on FB (we read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter one month! Next month we’ll be reading Phantom of the Opera for October’s classic horror month.) Normally all I ever read is fiction that entertains me, including chick-lit – but not all just chick-lit a variety. Since I decided to start working on some of those “classics” that are out there several years ago, I can tell you I am generally super disappointed with the classics and baffled at to why they are considered classics. Most of them seem to end awfully, so a story you are invested in, have been enjoying and then suddenly kills the book in the last 200 or so pages. That to me feels like a bigger waste of time on my brain – spending 3 weeks reading a 1000 pg novel, only to be disappointed with it. 3 weeks spent reading something, only to hate it? So not worth the time! 3 hours spent reading a fluffy chick-lit novel, laughing, the boy gets the girl in the end and I’m entertained and happy? Totally worth it. Reading is in my “free time” (Homeschooling Mom of 4 kiddos) and with so many choices for my time – why should I spend it wasted on a book I end up hating? lol – just a personal preference I guess. After so many disappointing classics and my brain feeling burnt out on them, I decided to swing back to fiction and fluff stuff because I just can’t take all the heaviness and disappointment and what I feel is a waste of my time. Maybe after I read some non-thinking, fun escapism books I’ll be able to handle a classic again!

    As it is, I enjoyed reading Austenland myself last month. I didn’t consume it all in one afternoon, but did read it while brushing my teeth and in the 20 minutes I read before bed each night over a few nights. It took me a bit to get started with it, but once I got in it was easy to read. I loved it when she started painting again and really did love the ending with the little surprise twist with the gardener (did not see that coming as well!). I read the book because I saw the trailers for the movie and for some reason always decide to torture myself by reading the book first (hence I still haven’t seen Les Miserable because I haven’t read the book first!) Looking forward to Austenland whenever it reaches my screen – be it locally in theaters, or netflix.

  2. Austenland was a good book, but if you have read other books by Shannon Hale (Goose Girl, Princess Academy) it may have left you a little disappointed. Its sequel, Midnight in Austenland was really good, though. I highly recommend it! And if you haven’t read her young adult books, you should!

      1. Anne- I definitely liked Midnight in Austenland better. It was more of a mystery. But you should really read Goose Girl and Princess Academy. Those books are definitely where Shannon Hale’s talent is at its best.

      2. Anne,
        I’ve been meaning to read Midnight in Austenland because our buddy Jessica from Quirky Bookworm said she liked it better than Austenland. I typically agree with her, so I’ll read it soon and let you know.

        I didn’t hate Austenland as much as you did. I thought it was fun and breezy overall. I did hate that such a huge Austen devotee would hide her Pride and Prejudice obsession. Seriously, I’ve never met a JA fan who was ashamed of her fandom.

        I’m interested in seeing the movie, too. You guys should do more reviews like this!

  3. I really enjoyed reading your reviews of the same book! It was fun to get different opinions. I’ve heard of Austenland but I haven’t read it, so now I’m curious to see whose opinion I would match most closely with. I suspect I would learn toward Carrie or Anne’s camp, but I’ll have to read it to see. 🙂

    This month I finally gave in and read The Hunger Games because so many of my friends were recommending it (I’m late-20s with no kids, so I enjoy YA fiction but I wasn’t coming at it from the perspective of a parent whose children wanted to read it – I know that’s a whole other debate around the blogosphere). I’ll admit that I watched the movie first (a big no-no for any bookworm, I know!!). I didn’t find the youth violence as disturbing as I had been warned I might, possibly because I was prepared for the worst in that regard. I thought it was well-written (although I took exception to some of the comma usage and found the present-tense narration a bit pretentious) and an interesting adventure story. I appreciated the strong and savvy heroine – she’s the kind of character I would have looked up to as an adolescent. But in terms of the dystopian setting, I didn’t find it to be as dramatic a social commentary as some of my friends have made it out to be. So often, rave reviews from my friends leave me disappointed in a book. I should remember to go in with low expectations and then be pleasantly surprised. All in all, I enjoyed it and I think I’ll read the others in the trilogy and plan to see (or rent) the future movies as well.

  4. I happened across a copy of Austenland at Goodwill a long time ago. According to the sticker it was an early review copy that had belonged to the library. I picked it up for 25 cents and enjoyed it. It was a light and fun read. I did like Midnight in Austenland a little better.

  5. I recently read Austenland and enjoyed it. 🙂 It’s not great literature, but a good, relaxing read.