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If you’re interested in the “Austenesque” genre, you’ll enjoy Austenland by Shannon Hale (2007). But how do the movie and book compare?
Who is Jane Hayes?
Shannon Hale‘s Austenland follows 30-something Jane Hayes, a New Yorker who has an average life if it were not for an epic obsession with Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy from the 1995 BBC Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as portrayed by Colin Firth, has given her unrealistic expectations for her own love life. Her beloved Great Aunt Carolyn bequests Jane a trip to a Jane Austen themed getaway. Taking advantage of this gift, Jane goes to Pembrook Park in the gorgeous English countryside.
Jane and Martin
At Pembrook Park, Jane is overwhelmed by the Regency era society rules and regulations. She ends up bored with the experience and uses her contraband cell phone and starts to sneak away to meet the gardener, Theodore (aka. Martin Jasper).
Jane and Henry
Of course, a Jane Austen styled romantic comedy is missing something if there is not another suitor for the lady’s hand. That role goes to Mr. Nobley (aka. Henry Jenkins), a gentleman actor who is at Pembrook Park. Jane finds Nobley to be overbearing and rude, much like Elizabeth Bennet does with Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Using her cell phone, she learns that Henry Jenkins is a divorcee who had shown compassion to his ex-wife prior to their divorce. Perhaps he is not the horrible man she first thought he was?
Who Does Jane End Up With?
By the end of the book, Jane is confused by her feelings for both Martin and Henry. She feels there must be safety with Martin whom she does not consider an actor so they plan to leave Pembrook Park together. Meanwhile, at the grand finale ball, Henry/Mr. Nobley declares his love for Jane and asks her to marry him.
Jane leaves the next morning and is further confused when she learns from another guest that Henry/Mr. Nobley protected her from being kicked out early from the experience when her contraband cell phone was discovered by the proprietress, Mrs. Wattlesbrook.
She also discovers that Martin/Theodore was an actor giving updates to Mrs. Wattlesbrook the entire time that Jane thought they were enjoying an authentic romance.
Disgusted with everything, Jane arrives at the airport where Martin and Henry both fight for her affection but she denies them both. Boarding the plane she is shocked when Henry sits down next to her and declares his love for her again.
They fly back to New York City together and Jane finally takes her Pride and Prejudice DVDs out of hiding for all th know of her love for the movie.
Austenland: How Does the Movie Differ from the Book?
Shannon Hales’ book was adapted to film in 2013 with Keri Russell (“The Americans”) in the lead role and JJ Feild (“Northanger Abbey”) and Bret McKenzie (“Flight of the Conchords”) as the two romantic leads.
The premise of the story was pretty faithful to the original material. The main difference is that instead of being gifted the trip to Pembrook Park, Jane spends her life savings to go on an Austen inspired vacation.
Also, Jane is no longer a closeted Pride and Prejudice fan but in the motion picture her apartment is littered with Colin Firth and Pride and Prejudice knick knacks. Her best friend and a date all know of Jane’s unhealthy obsession compared to the book.
The casting of Jennifer Coolidge as Miss Charming also changes the story by creating further over-the-top comedy and providing slapstick gags. According to rumors, Jennifer Coolidge’s lines were made up on the spot since it was hard for producers to get her to learn her script.
What to Watch and Read Next?
For fans of Austenland (2007) the book, we would recommend that you read:
- The Jane Austen Academy – a young adult book series by Cecilia Gray.
- Jane Austen Takes the South – a modern Christian Jane Austen series set in the United States South with Civil War re-enactments and Southern gentlemen.
- The Austens Series – A modern book series by Staci Hart. The first book is a romantic comedy adaptation of EMMA.
- Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries Series – Carrie Bebris wrote a cozy mystery series set in the Regency era featuring Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. They visit locals such as Lyme (“Persuasion”) and Highbury (“Emma”).
For fans of Austenland (2013) the movie, we would recommend that you watch:
- Northanger Abbey (2007) – See a younger JJ Feild as Mr. Tilney opposite Felicity Jones (“On the Basis of Sex“).
- The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) – See a terrific ensemble cast in this adaptation of The Jane Austen Book Club.
- Death Comes to Pemberly (2014) – See Keri Russell’s partner, Matthew Rhys, as Mr. Darcy in this miniseries.