Shannon Hale’s first adult novel, Austenland (Bloomsbury, 2007) is a fast, fun romantic comedy, well-reviewed in SLJ’s Adult Books for High School Students column. In the sequel, we’re back in Pembrook Park resort with a new heroine, hoping for romance Darcy-style.
Shannon Hale is well-known by younger readers for The Goose Girl, Princess Academy, and Book of a Thousand Days. Teen fans of both Hale and Jane Austen looking for a different kind of Austen experience will enjoy this romp. They may be aware of it already, thanks to an interview with Hale published on Twilight Lexicon over the weekend.
A movie version of Austenland is in post-production, scheduled for release this year. In fact, Hale came up with the inspiration for Midnight in Austenland while working on the screenplay. I love the idea of Midnight being, as the author describes it, less of a sequel and more of a Fantasy Island-like use of the same location.
HALE, Shannon. Midnight in Austenland. 288p. Bloomsbury. 2012. Tr $22. ISBN 978-1-60819-625-8. LC 2010053029.
Adult/High School–Confused and angry after her divorce, Charlotte Kinder decides to take a vacation to England. Her travel agent suggests the ideal adventure: Austenland. Upon arrival she is greeted with “Welcome to 1816” and from that moment on Charlotte dresses, eats, and lives like the characters in a Jane Austen novel. Austenland offers all the expected ambience as both guests and actors play the parts necessary to create a complete Austen experience: Charlotte’s handsome “brother” Edward, the genial Colonel, consumptive Miss Gardenside and her nurse; lonely Miss Charming; the owner, Mrs. Wattlesbrook, and of course, dark, brooding Mr. Mallery, Charlotte’s intended “love interest” for the duration. Guests and actors dine formally each night, take long romantic walks, play cards, flirt, and indulge in pretend murder mysteries devised by the Colonel. But one night’s mystery turns sinister when Charlotte stumbles upon a body in the dark. Is it real or is it part of the play? She investigates and discovers that not all is as it seems in Austenland. This book, following Austenland (Bloomsbury, 2007), has much to recommend itself: the alternating chapters of Charlotte’s modern life intersperse well with those of her experiences in Austenland, interesting characters, and a fabulous ending. But there are drawbacks too. The writing during the “Austenland” chapters sometimes tries too hard to be clever, and the mystery doesn’t completely ring true. But overall these aren’t enough to dissuade true Austen fans, and most teens will not be disappointed by the story.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA