Back in January I read a book that I thought was a fun read. One I wanted to share with my friends and family, not to mention students. Problem was, this was an ARC, so I had to wait.
By our Book Fair, this book hadn't been published, and wouldn't be for another month. All I could do is tell the students and parents that this was a definite summer purchase/read.
What book? Austenland, by Shannon Hale.
Now, I didn't remember the name Shannon Hale when I picked up the book, and didn't inspect the author copy too closely. That's a good thing because I really didn't like the other Hale book I'd read, Princess Academy (too contrived). So I went into this one with no prejudice against the author, which I know one shouldn't do but really - don't we all? I mean, if it's an author we really didn't like, then it's like eating a food we hate, and if it's an author we really do like, it's a quick, fast delicious read. Right?
Anyway, the book centers on Jane, unlucky in love and unlikely to find anyone as wonderful as Mr. Darcy (specifically, Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy). Her Great-Aunt dies, leaving her the "inheritance" of an all-expenses paid three week vacation at Pembrook Park. This theme-park for grown-up women asks that you show up with only one change of clothes because they'll provide all the rest (right down to era-appropriate undies!). After a few days drill in proper etiquette, you're released into a world populated with dandies and fops, house servants, balls, horses... you remember it from an Austen novel, it's here. Of course, our Jane finds love - or does she?
The ending was a bit much, but then, so are many of Austen's endings. Hale writes good pastiche, and if you're an Austen fan (with or without Mr. Firth's help), this is a Must Read. If you like your romance novels not quite so chick-lit or Harlequin-y, this is a Must Read. And if you're just looking for a fun read...
Oh, I checked: it's on bookshelves now. Finally.