Study Guide

Austenland

By Shannon Hale

Austenland Introduction

We've always wanted to go a resort based on each of our favorite books. We've already hit Harry Potter Land‎ and that decaying Bible park, but we've still got a ton of books to go. Okay, we'd stay away from a Hunger Games resort (probably more of a "death trap" than a "resort"), but who wouldn't want to attend a party at a Gatsby-style theme park?

If only Austenland were a real place. Austenland is what you get when you combine Jane Austen—author extraordinaire of Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and the book that launched a thousand mini-series: Pride and Prejudice—with, well, land. Beautiful land in the English countryside, complete with well-kept gardens and majestic homes, to be exact.

The 2007 book Austenland was written by Newberry Medal-winning author Shannon Hale (who is Stephenie Meyer's BFF!). The plot centers on one New York City resident, Jane Hayes, who is lucky enough to visit this magical fantasyland. As Jane discovers, Austenland is replete with Regency romance, ballroom dancing, and enough Jane Austen references to fill a Brit Lit course. Not everything is what it seems, though.

Austenland's story stems from Jane's (and a good half of the world's population's, give or take a billion) obsession with Austen's classic bad boy: Mr. Darcy. More specifically, the dripping wet version of Mr. Darcy who emerged from a lake in the form of Colin Firth in the BBC mini-series.

But since Austenland is a resort with paid employees, our girl Jane has a tough time figuring out what's what, who's who, and who's really in love with her (rather than simply flirting with her to make a buck). Her first steamy love affair in Austenland soon fizzles out. Luckily, Jane, like the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice, eventually gets her happy ending in the form of her very own overconfident, brooding hero: Henry Jenkins, a.k.a. Mr. Nobley. Looks like Shannon Hale knows how to turn a good tale (without cheesy rhymes like ours). 

Austenland the movie stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes and Jane Seymour as the persnickety proprietress of Pembrook Park (a.k.a, Austenland), Mrs. Wattlesbrook. Do any scenes in this movie live up to those classic, steamy moments of Pride and Prejudice? Guess you'll have to find out for yourselves.

But if you want your own, all-expenses-paid trip to the Original Austenland, we suggest you grab a copy of the book. Hey, at least you won't have to pack a corset.

What is Austenland About and Why Should I Care?

We won't judge you if you've fallen in love with a fictional character. Why else would you keep reading novels? Mr. Darcy. Heathcliff. Harry Potter. These are characters who jump off the page and right into your heart. In a romantic way, not in an Aliens chest-parasite kind of way.

So we think Austenland is worth a read because it celebrates our obsession with fictional characters. While we hope we never get as crazy about any made-up person as Jane Hayes does about Mr. Darcy, it's always fun to imagine what it would be like if our favorite fictional heroes were real people. (Note: the existence of Trekkies.)

Furthermore, Jane's story is the ultimate romantic fantasy. Like the best Austen heroines, Jane is optimistic to a fault. She never, ever gives up on love (even though she says she will). And even when this admirable optimism gets her in trouble, Jane gives us hope that maybe one day we'll all get our own happy endings, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger-style.

Austenland Resources

Websites

Lost in Austenland
Get lost on Shannon Hale's website, and you might stumble across alternate endings, factual errors, and other fun Austenland trivia.

Movie or TV Productions

Felicity Meets Jane
The Austenland film adaptation not only stars Keri Russell of Felicity and The Americans, but it also has a Bridget Jones connection. James Callis, who played Bridget's best guy pal Tom, plays Colonel Andrews.

Twilight Over Austenland
Stephenie Meyer didn't just blurb her pal Shannon Hale's book; she helped turn it into a movie. Check out the author (Hale) and her producer (Meyer) on-set in some behind-the-scenes pics.

Articles and Interviews

From Mini-series to Book to Movie
In this interview, Shannon Hale discusses her inspiration for Austenland (omg, Colin Firth) and what it was like to be on the set of the movie based on her novel.

Modern? Classics?
How does Shannon Hale feel about classics—besides her beloved Jane Austen books, of course? You'll have to read this interview to find out.

Video

Darcy or Nobley: Battle of the Regency Hunks
Can Mr. Nobley ever hope to top the hotness that is Mr. Darcy? We'll have to watch Austenland to find out.

The Actors Behind the Actors
Go behind-the-scenes with the actors of Austenland. They speak to you when Jane Austen can't. Because she's dead.

Audio

Read by the Well-Read
The Austenland audiobook is narrated by Katherine Kellgren, who has also done books by Bram Stoker, Rick Riordan, and Frank Herbert. She's well-read enough to be in a Jane Austen novel.

NPR Austenland Edition
NPR spoke with Shannon Hale back when Austenland was released back in 2007. She refers to this as a coming-of-age story. Can someone come of age in her thirties?

Images

Pembrook Cottage Open House
The original cover for Austenland kind of looks like a real estate brochure. Pembrook Park is no Pemberley, that's for sure.

Packing for Austenland
Not only do we have tickets to see the movie, but we so want Keri Russell's totebag.