Austenland by Shannon Hale
Austenland ended up on our book club voting lists as an entry in the romance category. This time around we were trying to hit on more of the genres, though we still wanted books that would be appealing and good discussion fodder.
I'd read Hale before (in fact I really love her books), but Austenland really is a complete departure from her usual. Her first adult offering is chick lit with a dose of Austen. In it, protagonist Jane is obsessed with Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy to the point where she cannot have a healthy romantic relationship. In order to cure her, a wealthy aunt gives her to an all-expenses-paid trip to Pemberley Hall, an English reenactment resort catering to Austen-lovers.
The book club members were pretty split on this one. Personally, I really enjoyed the book (I listened to the audio version), but I went into it expecting chick lit. I thought the book was a nice distraction to my workplace worries (and one of the twists took me completely by surprise). Those who didn't like the book terribly much were annoyed with Jane's character, displeased with the whole set-up, left with a bad taste in their mouths by the resort concept (Pemberly Hall as whorehouse?), and unhappy with the lack of Austen.
That being said, we did have a good discussion about the book. We drew a few parallels from Austen, discussed the Firth-Darcy as a cultural icon, defined chick lit in general (for those who hadn't been exposed to it before), identified devices in the novel, and wondered how we'd each react to a Pemberly Hall environment.