“… fantasy is not practice for what is real—fantasy is the opiate of women.” ~excerpt from “The End of Day 21” in Austenland by Shannon Hale
Jane Austen has come a long way from being an undervalued female living in nineteenth century England. A writer who understood relationships, society, and the language of wit better than most people do during their own lifetimes, Austen’s characters and stories have become the foundation of romance and continue to fascinate readers. Women are especially drawn to her male heroes, who seem to be wonderful mirages of men who could never exist in real life, being too perfect. However, Shannon Hale has the solution to these hopeless infatuations and ideals in Austenland, her smart and biting retort to the phrase “fantasy is a safe escape from reality.”
For the first time ever, Hale casts off the bindings of young adult fantasy literature and concocts a storyline rooted in the modern world with reality standing close by. Her main character, Jane Hayes, has a familiar obsession with the lead character from Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy. Unfortunately, Mr. Darcy was the figment of an author’s imagination, not the reflected image of a real-life man. The unhappy result of this fancy is that Jane is letting her expectations constantly cloud every relationship she has, her fantasy man destroying any possibility of happiness. Happily, a knowing benefactor sends Jane packing for treatment—only this “health resort” is Austenland, a retreat that is set entirely in the world of Jane Austen.
To be continued…
Austenland is available in local libraries and bookstores in Fresno, and online.