Austenland & Frontier House
I tend to be drawn to two different kinds of movies – period pieces and romantic comedies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good drama once in a while (The Shawshank Redemption and The Hunt for Red October being two of my favorite movies), but for the most part I love a good comedy or a remake of a classic tale. So when I picked up Austenland by Shannon Hale I was in for a pleasant surprise.
Jane Hayes is over thirty, has a long string of ex-boyfriends and is obsessed with all things Jane Austen (especially Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice). After deciding to quit men entirely and be content as a single woman, her great Aunt dies and leaves her a non-refundable trip to an English resort where she gets to play dress up for three weeks and becomes part of an “Austen experience.” Shortly after arriving in Austenland, the lines between reality and play acting blur and soon Jane isn’t sure what she wants anymore. Is it the Darcy-esque Mr. Nobley, the fun basketball loving gardener or is she done with this sort of fantasy forever?
For any of us who have a secret crush on all of Jane Austen’s fictitious men or who enjoy all those movie version of Austen’s various novels (my favorite being Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility), Austenland is right up your alley. The book is a sweet, funny and endearing romantic tale. Hale has a great sense of humor which is apparent in her writing and the protagonist is thoroughly likable and funny.
There were a few passages that gave me the giggles:
They wore the high-collared vests, cravates, buttoned coats with long tails, and tight little breeches that had driven Jane’s imagination mad on many an uneventful Tuesday night.
All around her were yellow walls, gaudy Georgian finery, the deliciously historic smell of furniture wax and kerosene. She looked down at herself, dressed in foreign fabric, cleavage encased in rust-colored satin, slippered feet resting on an Oriental rug. She was completely ridiculous. At the same time, she wanted to stomp the ground and squeal like a teenager just asked to the prom. She was here!
I borrowed Austenland from my local library, but can see myself reading it again one day. Since I’m a trade paperback kind of girl, I’m going to have to hit the bookstore on May 27th to pick up the paperback copy of this book. In the meantime, I picked up Hale’s book, The Goose Girlwhich I plan to read for Carl’s upcoming challenge.
Speaking of playing dress up, this book reminded me quite a bit of one of my most favorite PBS documentaries, Frontier House. I am not a reality tv fan, but there was something about this mini-series (and also the more recent Texas House) that was so appealing. Three families put their “real” lives on hold to take part in an experiment to live, for five months, like Pioneers of the late 1800’s. Their goal, along with living the life exactly like actual people from that time period, is to prepare for the upcoming winter. Frontier House is an interesting concept and the people who volunteered for this experiment make for enthralling tv. At the end of the five months, the families are judged by a panel of historical experts to see whether or not the family would have survived the harsh winter months. Frontier House is available for rent through Netflix and I would highly recommend it.