Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale – A Review

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale (2012)Guest review by Christina Boyd

Best-selling author of Austenland, and soon to be motion picture of same, Shannon Hale, takes us on another retreat to England in her latest offering, Midnight in Austenland.

When the nice American Charlotte Kinder married a nice man named James in a nice wedding, later giving birth to and raising two nice children, it surprised everyone when she started her own web-based company and was also discovered to be a clever, successful business woman. Her picture perfect world soon turns topsy-turvy when her husband divorces her for another. One particularly “thin and drab” weekend when the children are away with their father, she finds temporary solace, and even heart pounding sensations long forgotten, while reading Jane Austen’s masterpieces.  Seeking further escape from her non-fiction life, Charlotte flies to England in retreat to a country manor house catering to the total immersion of a Jane Austen experience, “Pembroke Park, Kent England.  Enter our doors as a houseguest come to stay two weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality—a visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more…” p.12. No one would suspect that Charlotte Kinder was about to become the heroine of her own life.

After completing a questionnaire declaring Pride and Prejudice her favorite novel, but also a particular enjoyment in Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, Charlotte’s total immersion Austen vacation seems tailored specific to her whims and desires, complete with an affectionate brother, a jovial Colonel and even her own brooding handsome gentleman of mystery. Although she is fully aware that everyone is playing a role, including herself, the lines between reality and fiction quickly become gossamer thin.  But when a spontaneous hide-n-seek like game called Bloody Murder is suggested, Pembroke Park’s promise of a possible flirtation is not what initiates Charlotte’s heart to pound.  “Lightning filled the window, piercing the room with an X-ray flash.  And she saw.  It seemed to be… it couldn’t be but it sure looked like… a hand.” p.91.  Obvious parallels to Northanger Abbey leave Charlotte questioning her own sanity as she attempts to accept the fantasy and play along.  Because what could be wrong with a little, harmless flirtation?  But is all of this intrigue and horror real or just part of the story line?

Shannon Hale does a capital job of weaving an intricate web of Charlotte’s past realities with her current situation (or is it imaginings?) at the Park.  Each new chapter begins with a memory or instance of her former self before stepping into this make-believe Regency England, endearing to Charlotte’s real life anxiety and disappointments from almost the beginning. Charlotte’s journey from sad, cuckolded creature to a strong, vibrant Incomparable is heart warming and enchanting. I was cheering as she finally opened her eyes to all she is and what she had not seen in her marriage.  So was the mystery and romance she experienced at Pembroke Park real?  I would not tell you for the world.  But let’s just say Midnight in Austenland left me with a happy heart and wondering where do I make a reservation?  Perfect escape for the blahs of winter, I totally accepted this blatantly contrived happy ending—because we all know, happy endings were one of Jane Austen’s specialties.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA (2012)
Hardcover (288) pages
ISBN: 978-1608196258
NOOK: ISBN: 978-1608196401
Kindle: ASIN: B006WXUK3Q

Christina Boyd lives in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her dear Mr. B, two youngish children and a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Bibi.  She studied Fine Art at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Salisbury University in Maryland. For the last nine years she has created and sold her own pottery line from her working studio. Albeit she read Jane Austen as a moody teenager, it wasn’t until Joe Wright’s 2005 movie of Pride & Prejudice that sparked her interest in all things Austen.  A life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, visiting Jane Austen’s England remains on her bucket list.

© 2007 – 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose

19 thoughts on “Midnight in Austenland: A Novel, by Shannon Hale – A Review

  1. Christina, I liked your review of this book, which I will add to my list. I am looking forward to the happy ending, as our Jane would most certainly approve! It will be a nice way to cheer up a winter’s afternoon.

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  2. Can’t wait to read this. It never ceases to amaze me how many Jan Austen related books are out there! Now if I just had time to read them all…

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  3. I loved Austenland and will definitely read this next one. And the news that there’s a movie coming? Whoopie!

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  4. Also, I read in my Jane Austen Regency Magazine that Carrie Russell is to play the lead for the movie “Austenland.” I am all anticipation. Glad you liked the review–if you loved “Austenland”– this latest is a must! Truly, things are not as they appear. Anything more… and I will be silent as the grave.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your review! I’ve had my eye on this book for a little while and I think it has so many promising elements to it.

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  6. Another beautiful review, Christina. One wonders where you find the time. I crave happy endings. Although I’ve heard compliments about Shannon Hale’s writing, I’ve never read her. Perhaps it is time.

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  7. Lovely review! This book was so much fun, and you make a great point about the happy ending being so fitting for Austen. I thought Shannon Hale did a fabulous job incorporating what readers loved about the first Austenland books while introducing a new element with the murder mystery, making things familiar yet fresh.

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  8. I can’t wait to read this book!
    This history meets very interesting, on a woman who after many problems in his life manages to go out forward and to be successful. Because of it in every moment of our life that is bad we do not have to stop fall ourselves, but to go out forward with a lot of faith! And it will wait for the movie to see if this one looks like the book!!

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  9. I just got a copy of Austenland and haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but excited that it’s also going to be a motion picture!! Loved the review and already have this on my to-read list… Looking forward to reading this, and always in the mood for happy endings!! :)

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  10. Pingback: Q & A with Midnight in Austenland Author Shannon Hale, & a Giveaway! « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  11. I just finished “Midnight in Austenland” this week. A wonderful addition to “Austenland”. Loved the mystery and the different turns in this novel. Since “Northanger Abbey” is one of my favorites…enjoyed having this novel as the basis. Wonder if each subsequent book (if there are more) will concentrate on a different Austen novel? A new protagonist, Charlotte, was a delight. Especially enjoyed how different this was from the first book plot wise…but kept all the fun, romance and happy endings intact. Our “Becoming Jane Austen Book Club” will be reading this ASAP. :)

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