Book Six in the 13 in ’13 Reading Challenge: Austenland

Good morning! Well, my friends, today we’re getting back to our regularly scheduled programming and giving Dave some breathing room. Back before this little swoon-fest and pink sparkly laptops took over my blogsphere, I mentioned what a kick I was getting out of a book whose main character reminded me of, well, me.

I had originally thought that “Austenland” by Shannon Hale, was going to be an in-between book for me; a literary palate cleanser, if you will, between the dense, chewy language of “The Scientist and the Madman” and the crisp, crunchy science-speak of “Love 2.0”.  But my wise friend Liz pointed that “Austenland” could certainly count as part of my challenge if I wanted it to – and guess what? I wanted it to!

You guys, “Austenland” was fun. It didn’t absorb me the way the Professor did, and it didn’t challenge me the way Love did (which we’ll be getting into next time) but did I mention it was fun?!?

Colin Firth

Don’t look at me like that, Colin. This is all your fault.

Jane is a spunky, independent, thoroughly modern heroine, who’s perfectly aware of the ridiculousness of pining over a fictional character. What I love about her is that she chooses to be amused by her pining, rather than depressed by it:

Okay, all right, she would go. It would be her last hurrah. Like her friend Becky who’d taken an all-you-can-eat dinner cruise the night before going in for a stomach stapling, Jane was going to have one last live-it-up and then quit men entirely. She’d wriggle into the skin of that other Jane, play out her fantasy, have a staggering good time, and then bury it all for good. No more Darcy.

Cracks me the heck up. And, listen, as a single girl of, as my beloved Ms Austen would put it, “marriageable age”, who is about to face the summer wedding season head on without a plus one in sight, can I just tell you how much I love Jane’s  attitude, here? She throws herself into her vacation at Pembrook Park, determined to enjoy every moment of her trip. A trip where she’s promised “country manners and hospitality—a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more…”

Of course she gets her “something more” and of course it doesn’t look a thing like she – or you the reader – think it’s going to, and auspb1of course that’s the best part of the whole book.

Which is what I loved about it. The whole time I was reading, in the back of my mind, I thought, well obviously, Jane is going to end up with Boy X, because even though she seems like she can stand up to Hollywood hype and societal pressures and the impossible expectations women bring on themselves by binging on episodes of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and Ben & Jerry’s at the same time  – she’s just a fictional character after all, and her author needs to pay her rent.

And then – ta-da! – a genuinely surprising, original, and for bonus points, funny, ending. *swo — *

Well, look at that. It seems we don’t need Dave around here to swoon after all. Have a wonderful day, everyone, and I’ll see you here tomorrow for Wordful Wednesday!

love amb

21 thoughts on “Book Six in the 13 in ’13 Reading Challenge: Austenland

  1. looks like a fun read 🙂 Liking the cover (though I know we’re NOT supposed to use it to judge)–fun mix of past expectations and present reality? And the ones with really good (surprise) endings are the best.

    Good luck with the summer wedding season etc. We’ve talked about the grass always being greener and I’m not saying I’d want to switch out my life (well…. 😉 ) BUT know that a plus-1 isn’t always flowers and hearts and swoons. My advice (not that you asked, haha) is to kick up those pink, sparkly heels while you can.

    Love this: “Hollywood hype and societal pressures and the impossible expectations women bring on themselves by binging on episodes of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” and Ben & Jerry’s at the same time” Um, yeah. Great review, amb. Like how you made it personal.

    • I know, but the cover really does tell you everything you need to know, doesn’t it? I’m always drawn to bright, fun covers myself. I love the Joanne Fluke paperback covers – lots of bold colours, and always a delicious looking baked good (or two) 🙂 And I totally agree with you that surprise endings are the best!

      Thank you! I needed to hear that today, I think. Most of the time I’m very content with where things are for me right now, but some days (especially those days where I’m running late in the mornings and I think about how nice it would be to have someone else around to make the coffee and remind me to unplug my hair straightener) I can’t help but feel a little … I think “wistful” is the word I’m looking for. And for the record, I am always, always happy to get advice from you my friend, whether it’s asked for or not! I always love hearing what you have to say, you know that 🙂

      Well, thank you very much! I was trying something new there, making things personal. Because you know me, it’s not like I’m honest about my feelings around here, or anything. Heeheehee! Seriously though, amb + TLC + ice cream = a bad idea. It just never ends well.

      • reality check. Your +1 might make you coffee in the morning and help you remember to unplug things, yes. OR, he might be the morning bird sort that whistles cheerily and asks you brightly “how are you today?!” as you’re groggily trying to throw together breakfast for your kids and remember which kid needs which snack to go where today. (because you are Night Owl, not a morning bird) And when the little one comes in disappointed because the Tooth Fairy forgot to take her tooth the night before (because the tooth fairy was up late blogging, but that’s our little secret) and then you wonder why are YOU the one that does the tf thing and why isn’t +1 helping. Etc. (oh my, is this a reality check or a therapy session? may have gotten carried away…)

        My husband is an amazing man and my kids are amazing and I know I am blessed beyond measure. But. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think (multiple times, usually) “why did I sign up for this again?”

        lol trying something new here–yeah, maybe you should talk about yourself a little more often 😉 You do well here, amb, and I’m glad you have this space. It’s been a fun spot for sure and seems it keeps getting better!

      • Oh, Liz, you always tell me just what I need to hear, you know that right? That is so very true, my plus one could turn out to be perfectly compatible with me in a million and one ways, and we could still end up clashing over morning bathroom schedules or whose turn it is to plan dinner or why the laundry piles up until it threatens to devour the entire closet. There are just so many moving parts when you’re living together and building a life with someone, and there’s really no way to predict how they will all fit together! (Or not, as the case may be).

        I think “why did I sign up for this again?” every time my alarm goes off in the morning, and I continue to be impressed and inspired by how you handle the many plates you keep spinning in the air. Even the tooth fairy is allowed an off night!

        I am so glad, as always, that you take the time to chat with me and everyone here – the only reason I’m doing well here is because of awesome folks like you, my friend! I have just loved today’s comments and I definitely think I’ll be getting personal around here more often!

  2. oh my. i just read the synopsis on wiki about jane hayes and let me tell you: she represents nearly every girl i knew from high school, myself included. mr darcy is… the ideal man. especially when colin firth is portraying him *swooooon* heck any character that colin firth portrays is doubly swoonworthy!

    and i’m with liz about the +1. it’s over rated. sure, it’s nice to have someone you know, go with you so you don’t die of boredom or from too much lovey dovey (which i doubt you could) crap, but if you already know the crowd, then the +1 is just baggage! and if you don’t know the crowd, this is the perfect opportunity to “wedding crash” the evening 😉

    • I totally agree. Colin Firth is just lovely and appealing and … lovely. He just is.

      I love your perspective on all of this so much!! First of all, you’re so right, you know I would never die from an overdose of lovey-dovey crap 🙂 Boredom, maybe, but lovey-dovey? Never! And yes, if you’re with a +1 and they don’t know any of the other people there, you end up playing cruise director all night and don’t really get to enjoy yourself. Definitely something I will keep in mind this summer! 😀

      • right? just go and eat and be merry. afterall, you’re there to celebrate the happy couple, not socialize with people. oh wait, that’s me. um… well you know what i mean! it’s just an opportunity to do your own thing and catch up with some friends. 🙂

      • oh and don’t forget that once you sign up for a +1, it’s forever and ever to eternity. so gone is you time (with the exception of bathroom time, unless you have a cat) and gone is the time you don’t have to hear the nagging “where are my good socks? not those ones. the ones with little red anchors on them.” believe me, you are blessed.. just in a different way.

      • Ok, first of all, this: “so gone is you time (with the exception of bathroom time, unless you have a cat)” made me laugh SO HARD.

        And second of all, between you and Liz I feel so looked after today – I am surrounded by wise women and I LOVE IT. Thank you for the perspective, my friend!

  3. First of all, that picture of Colin Firth is from one of my top ten favorite movies. *swoon*.

    Secondly, Austinland sounds like a fun read with a surprise ending, I’m going to add it to my reading list.

    Regarding the +1, when you’ve healed sufficiently, you will meet him, or maybe you already have. My Mr. Cranium, (see what I did there) while not perfect, is perfect for me and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

    • Is it really?!? Oh good! I’m so glad I could brighten up your day! (I don’t know what your afternoon is like, but it’s grey and rainy here).

      It was a fun read! I enjoyed it very much and would definitely recommend adding it to your list.

      You know, I think you’re right, when the timing is right everything will fall into place the way it’s supposed to. The trick is finding ways to live the life you want in the meantime, instead of just waiting around. And I have to say, talking here with you and everyone else definitely helps me do that!

      I did indeed see what you did there, and I loved it to bits. Based on the wonderful stories on your blog, I know that Mr. and Mrs. Cranium for sure fit together exactly how they’re supposed to! 🙂

      • Regarding the weather on my side of the continent, torrential downpours between sun breaks. I love the sun breaks. 🙂

        Between Mr. and Mrs. Cranium, they’re like the legs of a favorite pajama pants. Only one leg’s just a bit shorter than the other and wears wool socks. 😉

  4. Amb!!

    Fantastic review..I knew whatever you’d write would be great, but I do agree with and love the personal touch you gave it. In the spirit of transparency, I think it’s yet another way we are in sync, I am realizing as the days press on, but shh..don’t tell anyone! 🙂

    Adore the line about societal pressures to simultaneously binge on “Say Yes…” and B &J…just brilliant!

    Having read Austenland, and therefore knowing the ending, I agree, so fun(ny) and did not see it coming, which made it all.the.better! Sweetly perfect! And not without her successful transformation {albeit short and recent} that she hoped for in the first place! Ah, the life of characters in an Austen-esque novel, yes? 🙂

    On the +1 conversations, I am of both sides of the coin being flipped here…something to each side. I suppose it’s all in the right mix at the right time. I read something earlier, along the lines of, ‘grant me patience to have patience’. All I could do was laugh! 🙂 xoxo

    • Bon !!!

      Yay! I am so glad you liked the review, because I’ll tell you, you were totally in my head when I wrote it. I basically sat on the couch with my laptop and thought, if Bonnie were here and we were having book club, what would we talk about? I knew for sure we’d both have a lot to say about Jane 🙂 I’m so glad you pointed out her transformation, because I loved the change in her attitude and didn’t get around to mentioning it myself. So – tag team reviewing! Go team go! 🙂

      Appreciate your insight into this whole plus one conversation too, my friend, since it can be so easy for me to fall into one perspective (it’s TLC’s fault!) and miss other sides to the story. But you’re right, there’s good and bad here, just as there is with everything else, yes?

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden craving for ben and jerry’s … xooooox.

  5. How come when my life is like a movie it–

    Wait! Wrong thread!

    Never mind!

    I still want to see read your reaction after you finally see the BBC version of P & P with Colin Firth . . .

    • Bahahaha. Nice save there, Diddy. You crack me up.

      I know – I owe you a couple of Austen-related posts now. I’ll have to think on this one for a while … I’m sure there’s a way I can turn this into a weeklong extravaganza somehow ….

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