Monday, March 10, 2008

Mr. Darcy, Where Is Thy Sting?

If you regularly watch this space, you may be aware of my new and passionate fondness for the work of Shannon Hale. Alas, Austenland is not tickling me the way her young adult books do.

The premise is reasonable to start with: a woman in her thirties, examining the reasons she has foundered in love, realizes it's because she has, for some reason, pinned all her romantic hopes on the unattainable Mr. Darcy. She feels shame at this and decides to swear off men and renounce her Darcy worship, but just around that time, a keen-witted elderly relative dies and leaves her an all-expenses-paid vacation at Jane Austen Fantasy Camp, where you dress up and act out life in an English manor house. Our heroine decides to call this her last hurrah.

So far, this sounds fabulous to me; the vacation itself sounds wonderful, as does the book--sassy American transplanted not just in staid, uptight England, but staid, uptight England almost three hundred years ago. Girl finds love exactly where she always hoped and doubted she would. C'mon, it's only 200 pages long.

The flaw in the book is that Jane is inexplicably ashamed of her love for Pride and Prejudice. And not for the sensible reason that, however hott Darcy's aloof indifference makes him, it means he might not be a great husband. No, it's because it seems "silly" and "romantic." Not in a hard-headed businesswoman kind of way, but in your standard girly chick-lit character trying to act like maybe she thinks a hard-headed businesswoman would act. I know very few college educated women--girly romantics or hard-headed businesswomen--who are not swoony over Mr Darcy, whether they actually want to marry him or not. I really can't understand how anyone would be embarrassed about that.

Which makes this book a bit like the thriller where your main characters can't just go to the police for some stupid, unclear, not-really-valid reason, and all the subsequent action revolves around them trying to do something the police would have done in five seconds if they had just called them, which there was never a good reason not to do.

I'm still going to read it though. And dream about my vacation in an English manor house.

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