Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Midnight in Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Released: September 4, 2012
Series: Austenland / Standalone
Source: Library
Challenge: None

After her husband left her for another woman, Charlotte escapes to Jane Austen - and gets so involved in her world that she takes advantage of an exclusive opportunity to spend two weeks at Pembrook Park living in simulated Regency times! But as Charlotte gets involved with the crafted plot lines and the other characters, she begins to wonder how much is acting and how much is real life - a question that becomes of great importance when a murder enters the storyline.

Charlotte is a great character. She's witty - though she fears she isn't - she's brave - though she thinks she isn't - and she's independent - though she thinks she isn't. She starts out very un-self-aware, swallowed up by a life lived by following wherever the current took her, as the opening lines of the book suggest. But through her adventures in Austenland, her investigation into the murder and her eventual romance proving her desirability to herself, she comes to realize that she is in fact a very interesting and complex woman - not the "nice Charlotte" of the beginning of the novel. Though she is nice. But she gets a backbone, and that's nice too.

And I find myself echoing somewhat the tone of the book, that drily humorous way of saying things. Charlotte's thoughts come into play a lot as she goes through each scene, and I love hearing her inner dialogues. Her conversations with her Inner Thoughts are just so much fun - like she's arguing with a teenager. And the tone of her inner dialogue is always that tongue-in-cheek, slightly sarcastic way of saying things - real British humor.

That carries through the entire book as well. It lends an almost whimsical effect to the whole mystery. There is the fact that Charlotte herself is not sure whether there actually was a murder or it's part of the actors' games, but in general this is not a mystery novel because there's not a lot of tension and suspense. The focus is on Charlotte's development as a character, and this leads to the murder mystery being somewhat fun, even when Charlotte is in imminent danger. Especially, even, when she's in imminent danger!

Partly that's because when she's in danger, the other characters who are involved behave in ridiculously funny ways. Well, that's not entirely accurate. They behave in dangerous and believable ways, but the way it's told makes it caricature-y. Because everything is seen from Charlotte's view, I guess. Though her love interest seems to be the way he is regardless of her interpretation of him, if that makes sense.

Midnight in Austenland is a fun, light read, with an engaging plot and mystery and with inviting characters.

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