This blog is basically about how good books are nice and bad books are the pits. And then I get grumpy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

And now for a change, something a little less tacky

Harrumph! I'm a bit peeved.

Sometimes one reads something that gets a tad under the skin and requires a comment. Happy thing, then, to have a blog.

I was over at a couple of the websites that I peruse regularly and there are discussions going on about the book Austenland by Shannon Hale, which I read about a year ago. I was fortunate to have gotten an advanced reading copy which I enjoyed very much, but now it seems the paperback edition is out and I'm eyeing it for its cute cover design.

As you can tell, I liked a lot about this book. Not everything, mind you, but a lot. The plot concerns a woman, thirtyish, who has a Pride and Prejudice obsession she is trying to purge herself of. For some reason, she thinks flooding herself in the world of regency England will help in this endeavor. Tiny little problem with the plot there, IMO, but no matter. It allows for a fun story to ensue in which the protagonist, Jane, visits an all-Regency-all-the-time resort. And there is a disturbingly fuzzy line between reality and script throughout the book as the guests of the resort interact with the resort actors, who are always in Regency character and terrible flirts. This seems to be a requirement of their jobs, which raises a whole ethical issue. But this novel is a light-hearted piece of beach-reading fun and that ethical discussion is something I'll save for another time.

Now, why am I peeved? Well, there's been a bit of impassioned criticism by readers that's directed towards the way the main character has been written. They cry immaturity since she becomes attached to one of the resort's actors after several embraces which she takes to indicate a level of seriousness on his part. There's a refrain I hear echoing from the critics: a woman that old thinking that such behavior may actually mean a guy likes you! Horrors!

Apparently, the notion is a bit unbelievable to people. I'd like to submit that perhaps it's actually charming. I mean every corner we readers turn we're faced with uber-sophistication. How many references to high-end stores, margaritas, and one-night stands can a book hold without making a reader sick? There are few stories nowadays where this kind of thing isn't overdone and it has become a little nauseating. So, to see a story where the characters have a bit more taste, well that's just plain nice.

And, let's remember, this is a story about a place where Regency life is (sort of) recreated, a time when a kiss could be tantamount to a proposal of marriage. So it's not all too inappropriate for the heroine of an Austen take-off to model arguably similar attitudes as, say, an Elizabeth Bennet or a Catherine Morland.

Of course, this is a twenty-first century book, but why not have a touch of nineteenth century sense and sensibility thrown in? (Sorry, had to get that out of my system.)

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