Shannon Hale’s 'Austenland' is about one woman’s obsession with Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and – to be precise – Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr Darcy.
This short and easy-to-read novel is an absolute delight to read (and easy to carry on the commute!). The characters are hilarious, especially Jane herself, and the comedy in throwing a modern day American woman into an Austenesque retreat in the English countryside is non-stop. Jane is endearing, despite her ridiculously outdated ideas of love and romance, and it’s easy to warm to her.
It really is the perfect, enjoyable read for any Austen fan – especially anyone who fell in love with Firth's Mr Darcy. Your face will ache from smiling.
The film adaptation takes a much more slapstick approach to the story and takes the whole setting to more theatrical depths, with the emphasis more on gags than witty banter.
It does provide plenty of laughs but the Austenland story is very specific in its appeal. If you love Austen and are in the mood for something silly it might just work for you. It is, though, incredibly indulgent and the humour (especially in the film) is very tongue in cheek – so much so that many may find it more patronising and insulting than clever and witty. It is a story designed to be taken as it was intended: silly escapist fun.
Ultimately, as the subject of the book vs film club, there were mixed – and extreme – reactions to Austenland in both formats but the difference in opinion certainly made for a more fun discussion than Gatsby, which everyone seemed in agreement over.
Film - 3/5
Book - 4/5