Hale, Shannon. 2007. Austenland.
Jane Hayes is a thirty-something single woman in New York City. But she has a secret, a big secret. She's a closet Darcy-lover. It's something she's ashamed of really--but when her great-aunt Carolyn knocks over a houseplant and finds the BBC DVD set of Pride & Prejudice, well, her secret is out in the open. Six months later, the unexpected--although not too horribly unexpected happens--her great aunt dies leaving Jane something in her will. It seems that Carolyn thought it fitting to send Jane off to England to visit her obsession up close and personal with a visit to the exclusive and pricey Pembrook Park where ladies masquerade around as if it's 1816. Jane doesn't want to go necessarily, but the tickets are nonrefundable. "Nonrefundable. It was a good, solid word, one you couldn't chew, one that only dissolved after sucking slowly." (16) But after she thinks about it for a while, she decides that maybe--just maybe--living out her fantasy for three weeks will cure her for once and for all. It's not normal to compare every man you date to the perfect Mr. Darcy.
A three week fantasy vacation. Three weeks of playing dress up. It is bound to be fun, right? Well, Jane finds it hard to live out Austen's works. Hard to stay in character. Hard to take it seriously. After all, while there may be three women guests who are paying for this charade, the rest of the cast are actors. And while it is fun to banter around with grumpy Darcy-like men, it is also very strange. Because--in the back of your mind--you never quite forget that they are being paid to act like Darcy. They're being paid to pay attention to you. Being paid to flirt with you. To stare at you. To declare their undying love for you.
Can Jane be cured? Is there hope for this Austen fan?
I loved this novel. I thought it very fun. And if you're a P&P fan too, then you'll be charmed as well.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirty-something woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her. There was no husband, but those weren't necessary anymore. There were boyfriends, and if they came and went in a regular stream of mutual dissatisfaction--well, that was the way of things, wasn't it?
But Jane had a secret. By day, she bustled and luncheoned and e-mailed and over-timed and just-in-timed, but sometimes, when she had the time to slip off her consignment store pumps and lounge on her hand-me-down sofa, she dimmed the lights, turned on her nine-inch television, and acknowledged what she was missing.
Sometimes, she watched Pride and Prejudice. (1)
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