Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury, 2012
I'm afraid I am a sure-sell when all things Jane Austen. Hale's first book Austenland
which I reviewed (here) in 2007 was entertaining Jane Austen fanfiction. I savored the concept of a place like Disneyland for Austen lovers, hence the name Austenland.
The story was picked up by Twilight's Stephanie Meyer who is producing Austenland -- the movie which is in post-production according to IMDB. If you wander back to July 2011 on author Shannon Hale's blog, squeetusblog, you will find her posting a bit about being on the movie set.
In this new book, Hale keeps the setting and some of the background characters including Mrs Wattlesbrook who manages the place, Colonel Andrews, who interacts with the visitors like a Disney Character at the parks, and Miss Charming, a perpetual guest at Pembrook.
Charlotte Kinder is a divorced mother of two. She is successful in business but feels alone and like a failure because of her divorce. When the opportunity to take a vacation presents itself, the travel agent suggests Austenland and Charlotte, who has only recently read Jane Austen's works, books the trip.
Hale tells the story in a sort of pendulum swing fashion between the past and present. The reader learns more about Charlotte's past as she tries to understand herself in an ongoing dialog with her Inner Thoughts. In the first story, Hale played off Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Here she puts a spin on Northanger Abbey. Has there been a murder at Pembrook Park or is Charlotte, like the NA character Catherine Morland, seeing things that are not there?
This was a fun read for spring break.
As New Zealand discovered there is gold in fan loyalty. This time around Peter Jackson et al are rebuilding Hobbiton for the filming of The Hobbit so it will be a permanent part of the New Zealand tourist trade for year to come. (See Hobbiton Movie Set Tours) I wonder if a similar idea might be pursued to create a real Austenland type hotel for Austen fans.