This was it. This was the book that finally dispelled the doldrums. It made me laugh out loud (Although by now you must realize that I laugh easily and often and probably my amusement is less of a compliment than if it were made by a more dour blogger. But who likes a dour blogger?) and held me rapt and allowed me to at last move on from the wizard boy.
The first laugh came from the dedication page: Hale dedicated it to Colin Firth. It only got better. You see, Jane is obsessed with Pride & Prejudice. More specifically, Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, and that fictional romance to which no reality can compare. She's ashamed of her P&P compulsion, and thus hides her DVDs behind a plant. A crafty (and rich) great-aunt discovers this and knows instantly what it means.
Then Aunt Carolyn dies and in her will leaves Jane a non-refundable 3-week vacation at a mysterious resort called Austenland. It's a place where your Regency dreams can come true. Like like Manor House ('cept that MH was Edwardian...but what's a 100 years between analogies?). Including the corset. Immersed in the world she so desired, Jane hopes to kick the P&P habit for good, and start living her own life.
My one regret is that the aunt had to die to give Jane her vacation. She was a great character, and I would have loved to see her brutally honest (and rather hilarious) insight. Of course, if it wasn't Aunt Carolyn's dying wish, Jane may well have not gone. This was adorable and immensely fun. It made me happy. Hale did a great job of honoring her inspiration. Even I, the sole girl on the universe who's not read P&P, could tell.
I'm ashamed to say that I've only read this and The Princess Academy by Hale. I've got this idea that she's a comfort read, and every time I want one of those, I wander over to the shelf. The Goose Girl is ALWAYS (I'm not kidding) checked out. And now I know why: A mom waiting for her daughter overheard me telling a colleague about Austenland and remarked on how much she loves Shannon Hale and how The Goose Girl is the best book she's ever read. This is the mom! I love that! So, I guess the adults have discovered Hale from their daughters, and that's why I never get to read it! (In a similar phenomenon, I think the adults have latched onto A Northern Light, too. I know I've given it to many.) ALSO, I'm now DYING to read Book of a Thousand Days, but it doesn't come out until September. Sigh.