When Charlotte Kinder
treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves
behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful
children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a
bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive
Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the
guests' Austen fantasies.
Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a
role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality
begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds
she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding
Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's
mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic
room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in
Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love?
The follow-up to reader favorite Austenland provides
the same perfectly plotted pleasures, with a feisty new heroine, plenty
of fresh and frightening twists, and the possibility of a romance that
might just go beyond the proper bounds of Austen's world. How could it
not turn out right in the end?
Midnight in Austenland is loosely based upon Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. I love the way Shannon Hale writes! The witty humor throughout this book had me laughing out loud, and the sarcasm was delightful. Hale gives a voice to Charlotte's inner thoughts, and the conversations she has with herself are hilarious. At the beginning of the book, Charlotte is struggling to regain her self-esteem she lost in her divorce. She decides to go away to England and stay a couple of weeks at Pembrook Park--where things are as they were in Jane Austen's time. Through this experience, the reader watches Charlotte go from a somewhat weak, groveling character, to a character who can stand on her own two feet.
As entertainment for the ladies staying at the estate, the gentlemen introduce a fictional murder story that the characters work on solving each night after supper. But while playing a game of murder one evening, Charlotte discovers a secret room with what she believes to be a dead body inside. No one believes her, and she begins to doubt herself until she discovers more clues and eventually the murderer. I love the great twists and turns in the plot--it soon became hazy as to what was real and what was made-up.
There were so many ideas and thoughts that I connected with. Shannon Hale is amazing at personalizing a story. This is a quote I especially loved:
would have killed me when I was fourteen, she thought with sudden
insight. I remember that much of my younger self. The romance and
awkwardness and sublime uncertainty would have broken her heart and
driven her crazy...But age gave her the peace, at least, to live inside
that moment like a poet - to not sacrifice the beauty to the anxiety of
What Next, but to just observe."
I love that this book combined mystery with self-discovery and romance. Charlotte is a character who grows immensely in this book, and ends up not only solving the mystery at Pembrook Park but also the mystery of what to do with her life.