Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland was everything I had hoped P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley would be. Granted, I shouldn’t be comparing the two, but I was so disappointed in James’ book. And, Hale’s, although it is set in modern times, is a joy. The heroine overcomes her fears, and saves herself. That’s my kind of heroine.

Charlotte Kinder is a nice woman, but after her divorce, she no longer thought she was nice. She had been so busy building a million dollar business, and taking care of her two children that she didn’t notice her husband slipping away. She was shocked when he asked for a divorce because he had found someone else. Charlotte was just numb. Only Jane Austen could save her.

It was a list from her teen years that saved Charlotte, who was going through life feeling nothing after the divorce. On that list of things to do before she turned thirty, was “Read Jane Austen.” Maybe, Charlotte was past thirty, but when she took the time to delve into Austen, she could finally feel again. And, her kids’ visit with their father gave her the time to take her own vacation, a two week stay in Austenland. At Pembrook Park in Kent, England, it was always 1816, and the men and women lived by Regency etiquette. Everyone had a role to play. Charlotte could become Mrs. Charlotte Cordial for two weeks, a widow and a houseguest, while she flirted with actors who played the gentlemen.

Perhaps Charlotte spent too much time reading Northanger Abbey. Her first thought upon seeing Pembrook Park was, “This is the sort of house where murders happen.” She found herself enjoying the company of the actors, and the friendship of the other women who were there as houseguests. She was fully prepared to spend two weeks enjoying a little romantic dalliance. As part of the entertainment, they were all caught up in the story of Grey Cloaks Abbey and the mystery of the death of the nuns there. Charlotte thought it was great fun, until, after a fire, she began to suspect that there really had been a murder at Pembrook Park, and one of the actors might be a killer. Suddenly, she had the chance to become a victim, or a heroine in her own life.

Shannon Hale’s Midnight in Austenland is fun, with a great deal of humor, a mystery, and romance. Charlotte Kinder is a wonderful heroine, smarter and stronger than she gives herself credit for. Hale turns Charlotte’s entire experience at Pembrook Park upside down, but it’s still an experience that Charlotte appreciates. And, readers who enter the story with Charlotte’s sense of adventure and anticipation will find the story meets expectations. Midnight in Austenland is a joy to read.

(Oh, and, if Shannon Hale reads this, I loved the dedications to both books, Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. I always read the dedications, even if a certain British actor might not.)


Shannon Hale’s website is http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale. Bloomsbury USA. ©2012. ISBN 9781608196258 (hardcover), 288p.


FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me an Advanced Reading Copy, hoping I would review the book.

18 comments:

Rosemary said...

This sounds good Lesa, I will look it up at the library. It will be interesting to read something that succeeds where PD James failed.

I am still on 'Let's Kill Uncle', and enjoying it.

Got my second OU assignment back and didn't get struck off the register, so life is good today.

Is this your Brown Bag day? Hope it goes well!

Rosemary

Lesa said...

I wish it was my brown bag day, Rosemary. Thank you. No, that's next Wednesday. Today, I have 3 meetings that go from 11 a.m. to 4:30. At least that means I'll PROBABLY get to leave a little early from work. Since the meetings aren't in my building, it doesn't make sense to drive back to work, only to turn around and leave again at 5. After a full afternoon of meetings, it's always nice to have a few extra minutes at home.

Kay said...

I enjoyed AUSTENLAND very much and look forward to this one. Such a fun concept - visiting the world of Austen for a vacation. And, I'm sorry that the P.D. James adaptation has not been to too many readers' taste. I waited to hear what other thought. Not great reviews really.

Lesa said...

Oh, I think you'll enjoy this one, Kay. Good heroine & a mystery plot!
No, there haven't been very many good reviews of P.D. James' book. The characters have no life, and the person who commented on DorothyL the other day was right about the ending. Some editor never should have let her get away with that one.

Cozy in Texas said...

Good review - thanks.
Ann

Anonymous said...

I'm generally not a fan of either Austen (I know, shocking!) or her imitators/mash-uppers, but you've made this sound very appealing, Lesa!

I'll have to see if we have it on order for the library - and if not, I'll request we order it!

Thanks for the heads-up.
LynneW in Ohio

Liz said...

I've just picked up The Heroine's Bookshelf. Never too late for Austen et al.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ann.

Lesa said...

Not shocking at all, Lynne. We all have different tastes. And, I'm certainly not the most knowledgeable Austen reader out there. I really haven't read much. Hope you enjoy this! Let me know what you thought, if you read it.

Lesa said...

That's true, Liz. Never too late!

Inside A Book said...

Okay, I skimmed this review so that I could be surprised but I sure get the gist that you enjoyed it. Yippee for another Shannon Hale book. I adore her writing and she makes me laugh at her realistic dialogue! Thanks for sharing this...I'll go back and read it again after I read the book!

I can't wait to read your Brown Bag Day Review. Wish I could be there. I'm thinking of starting something like that in my classroom. Could I borrow your title?

Lesa said...

Of course you can use Brown Bag Luncheon! It's not mine; it's a common title. Our HR department uses it for luncheons they hold for staff. So, go right ahead.

Can't wait to hear what you thought!

susied said...

Austenland is on my keeper shelf and I am really looking forward to reading Midnight in Austenland. Glad to know it is a winner, too! :)

Eileen said...

This looks very appealing. It's now on the TBR list. Thanks!

Lesa said...

Suzied - This one went on my keeper shelf, so I think you'll enjoy it.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Eileen. Enjoy it!

Karen C said...

Nice review, Lesa. I always read the dedications, too

Lesa said...

Thanks, Karen. And, I loved the dedications to Hale's two Austenland books.