I think it’s safe to say that Jane Austen is an icon. Almost 200 years after her death, her books are still staples of libraries and bookstores. Hollywood and modern literature has given us numerous adaptions of her novels over the years.
On one level, it seems easy to re-create her writing. Put the characters in a Georgian era England with Georgian era clothing (or if it is a modern reboot, referencing her characters and story lines), creating an Austen-like story and it seems that success is imminent. But it’s not that easy.
At first glance, Shannon Hale’s novel, Austenland seems interesting. Jane Hayes, a single American woman in her early 30’s, is obsessed and finds solace from her job and a string of failed relationships by re-reading Pride and Prejudice and re-watching the 1995 miniseries of the book. When her aunt dies, Jane receives an inheritance of an all expense paid trip to Austenland, a vacation where one immerses one self in everything Jane Austen.
The problem with the book and especially the movie is that the main character is exactly what someone who does not get the nuances and in-jokes of her novels, is exactly what she appears to be. She is single and so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice and Fitzwilliam Darcy that she is incapable of finding real, long lasting relationships. It’s as bad as conjuring up an image of Star Wars or Star Trek fan, a nerdy looking person living in their parents house with no relationships other than their immediate family who spends most or all of their time re-watching the movies or the TV series. This book makes me embarrassed to be a Janeite.
Don’t visit Austenland.