Book Review: Austenland

Published By: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date:  May 29, 2007
Page Count: 197
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: Library
Adult — Contemporary Romance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any single woman who ever saw Colin Firth in the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice must have fallen a little in love with Mr. Darcy.  And so it is with Ms. Jane Hayes, who by all other measures is a successful woman, though she continually fails in relationships by holding men to the standard of Mr. Darcy.  Her Great-aunt, knowing of her weird hang-up, leaves her a three-week trip to Pembroke Park, an immersive Austen vacation resort.  There Jane will dress and act the part of a young woman in Regency England, complete with "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..." (p. 13)  Will flirting with Regency actors help Jane kick the Darcy habit, or will she find a real gentleman amid the lies?

I have ended up reviewing a fair number of books* based on Austen/Brontë classics — there is just something about modern writers responding directly to timeless classics that pulls me in every time.  Austenland is the book that started that pattern for me, and it has become the yardstick against which I measure all other updated or twisted classics.  No lie.  Between the setting, characters, and the writing, I have loved this book enough to read it on four separate occasions.

The whole idea of a vacation estate for Austen obsessives is genius.  What Austen fan wouldn't want to wear pretty gowns and be mock-courted by chivalrous, cravat wearing men?  And Shannon Hale is so good on the details of Pembroke Park, which things are authentic and which are updated for convenience, without being overly serious about it. (The chamber pots are purely decorative for goodness' sake!)  The characters who populate the estate, both Austen-esque and original, are delightful, especially Martin the gardener and Jane herself.  Jane's hilarious dialogue (internal and external) made me laugh multiple times. Truly, Hale has achieved the perfect balance of update and homage.  I'm so tongue-tied in love with this book that I'm having a hard time getting my thoughts into words.  Suffice it to say if you liked the original Pride and Prejudice I am confident that you will also enjoy Austenland.

* If you're interested in other books like this, here's a list of those that I've reviewed for Reading Lark: Prejudice & Pride, The Mad Woman Upstairs, Dear Emma, and Mr. Rochester.


Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?


  1. Hello!
    I have this book to read (for a long time now) but I've heard some bad reviews that made me lose the curiosity a little bit. After your review, I will definitely pick the book up as soon as possible! Also, will you read the second book (Midnight in Austenland)?
    - Mad (

  2. I love Austen but sometimes get disappointed in Austen-esque books. One of my favorites is Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay, have you read it?


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