Have you ever dreamed about having the opportunity to step into the world of one of Jane Austen’s stories? Maybe you’ve imagined dressing up in Regency Era clothing, attending a ball, and falling passionately in love with your very own Mr. Darcy (or Colonel Brandon, Mr. Bingley, Captain Wentworth, Mr. Knightly…or another of Austen’s fictional gentlemen).
Or maybe you might want to visit a vacation destination that resembles the world of Austen’s books; one that offers you the chance to immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Regency England, without having to sacrifice the convenience of modern plumbing.
In Shannon Hale’s novel, Austenland, that’s exactly what Jane Hayes has the opportunity to do. When her wealthy great-aunt passes away, Jane is named as a beneficiary in her will, and is given a trip to Pembrook Park for a three-week, immersive Regency vacation. While she is initially hesitant to go, Jane ultimately decides that it will be her last hurrah before resigning herself to being relationship-free for the rest of her life. The question is, will this vacation cause her to give up on her Mr. Darcy obsession, or will she manage to meet her own Mr. Darcy?
I’ve read Austenland several times now, and I always really enjoy it. The novel is a fun, romantic story, with a main character that I think a lot of people will find it easy to relate to. It is a very fast read, less than 200 pages in length, and the story moves along at a quick pace.
Like the novel, the Austenland movie follows Jane Hayes’s stay at the “world’s only immersive Austen experience.” But if you begin watching the movie expecting the story to unfold exactly like the book, you’re going to be setting yourself up for disappointment, as there are a significant number of differences between the two. That being said, I absolutely love the movie, and I feel like it is a great representation of the original story, despite its differences.
One of the biggest differences between the book and movie actually concerns Jane herself. Novel Jane is somewhat ashamed of her love for the fictional character of Mr. Darcy; to the point where she actually hides her copy of the A&E Pride and Prejudice miniseries (the one with Colin Firth) behind the dying plants in her apartment. She is also a bit hard on herself at times for her Darcy obsession, and ultimately blames her feelings toward the fictional character for her lack of success with past boyfriends.
Movie Jane (played by Keri Russell), on the other hand, fully embraces her status as a Jane Austen fan…to the point where she has a cardboard cutout of Colin Firth (as Mr. Darcy) in her living room, and refers to her Jane Austen obsession as “a hobby.” As someone with my own fair share of literary and pop culture obsessions, I found this version of Jane even easier to relate to.
Though I have watched the movie a few more times than I have read the novel, I actually have a very hard time choosing a favorite between them because I like different elements of both.
I highly recommend both the book and its movie adaptation. They will definitely appeal to fans of Jane Austen, as well as anyone who enjoys a good romance. Personally, I would start by reading the book and then watching the movie, since that is the order in which they were released.
If you’ve ever dreamed of meeting your own Mr. Darcy, then I think you will fall in love with Austenland!