For Valentine’s day Both Ryan and I decided to break out of our preferred genres and enter into the world of romance. We decided to have our wives (who are much smarter than we are) write the reviews with us. This year our theme is centered around one of the greatest figures in English literature-Jane Austen. Ryan and Stephanie reviewed the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley here. Alex and I are not reviewing an original Jane Austen novel, but rather a book inspired by Jane Austen. Austenland is a novel written by award-winning and best-selling author Shannon Hale in 2007 which eventually became a movie in 2013. It is an Austen-esque romance in modern times, constantly referencing the famous works of Jane Austen. It is a short and well-written story that is sure to entertain, but also contains some excellent worldview content.
Few people have had as unfortunate of a love life as Jane Hayes. Jane is now in her thirties and losing hope that she will ever meet the man of her dreams. She believes that her destiny is to be a single, career-minded woman for the rest of her life. Her one guilty pleasure is an obsession with Jane Austen romance, particularly with the BBC film Pride and Prejudice.
In one fateful family lunch, a rich old aunt discovers Jane’s love of Pride and Prejudice. When Jane’s aunt dies, she is informed that she has been included in the will. The lawyer quickly tells Jane that she hasn’t been left any money, but a particularly unique present. She has been left with a three week vacation to Pembrook, a resort which allows one to enjoy the life of the Regency era of England so popularly displayed in Austen’s fiction. Jane decides to go on the vacation with the hopes of getting the Mr. Darcy obsession out of her system. But will she accomplish her goal?
This book was an enjoyable read; a creative take on a modern Austen tale. The main character was very relatable as a single woman who yearns for the perfect man, while struggling to meet the expectations of her family and friends in the dating arena. The author brought humor to this common situation, which was refreshing to me. As I read the book, I could not tell where the story would end up. It seemed to me that it could end in one of two ways: either the typical Pride and Prejudice storyline would play itself out, or the author would deviate and declare that finding “Mr. Darcy” isn’t the ultimate goal in life. I found myself hoping for the latter, although the romance-lover in me did enjoy the growing love story. In the end, I was slightly disappointed that the main character did find her Mr. Darcy, and even more so that he was almost an exact copy of the original Darcy. Because this book was a creative take on Austen’s story, I hoped that the ending would be creative as well. Overall, I enjoyed reading Austenland, and would recommend it, especially to those who have a special place in their hearts for Pride and Prejudice.
Even though I am not a fan of romance, I would have to admit that I enjoyed Austenland to a degree. It is unique and very well written. As a married man I think it was good for me to read a book that so clearly portrayed the emotions of a woman. It reminded me that in general a woman’s emotions can work very different than a man’s. So I am grateful for that reminder as I believe it will help me to better empathize with my wife. As for the story I fully expected that Jane would find her Mr. Darcy, but it was getting to that point that kept my interested piqued. So for anyone out there, who like me, decides to break out of their comfort zone and try a romance novel, this would be a great choice.
A fascinating aspect of this story is that Jane’s emotional struggles are not so much about what others think of her but about her personal identity. She doesn’t waste much time worrying about whether potential lovers desire her or not. She is more concerned about figuring herself out. Prior to reaching Pembrook, she struggles to understand why she is so obsessed with fantasies of her own Mr. Darcy. She feels she should be content being a career-minded “spinster”. She ends up going to Pembrook as one last “hurrah” and to prove to herself that the whole idea of Jane Austen styled romance is for silly girls. In the end, she is able to convince herself that she is happy and better off on her own, only to be made happier by an ever persistent admirer whom she finally accepts as the love of her life. Even when she finally convinces herself that she does not need a man in her life, a man comes and surprises her with a degree of joy she has never known.
A reality of life is that no one can ever truly find their identity in and of themselves. Now do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that everyone needs a lover in order to be fulfilled. What I am saying is that no one will never be satisfied with their self-identity until they find their identity in Jesus Christ. One of the most amazing things about Jesus is that he loves us for who we are, and not for who we should be. If we are honest with ourselves, we are full of imperfections. It is simply astounding to think that the perfect God of the universe, fully knowing every mistake we’ve ever made, loves us with an everlasting love. So when I only look at myself, I define myself by my job, accomplishments, likes, dislikes, and failures. But when I see my identity in Jesus, I am child of God, whom He loves to no end.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org