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Updated: September 25, 2013 17:01 IST

Flights of fantasy

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Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
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Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

What happens when a 21st century American woman makes a trip to 19th century England?

Gentlemen, romance, 19th century England, Charlotte Constance Kinder and her not-so-nice life — that and more is what Midnight in Austenland has to offer its readers. The story is set mostly in England and parts of it in America. Charlotte struggles between her real self and the role she plays, resulting in a story of self-discovery.

Charlotte has divorced her husband James Kinder because of his relationship with another woman called ‘Justice’. Charlotte is depressed and won’t leave the house. She is forced on blind dates but somehow still feels unready to start another relationship. Also, her kids Lu and Beckett seem to be growing out of needing her with each passing day. That is when she finds a ‘Things to-do before I’m 30’ list at her mother’s place. ‘Read Jane Austen’ is one of the many things on the list and Charlotte takes to reading instead of all the other things her family and friends force her into doing.

Fantasy land

She is so intrigued by Austen that when her sister-in-law suggests she take a trip, she decides on going to England. She wants to meet the characters in Austen’s books and finds the thought ridiculous. However, she gives it a go and finds herself making a trip to Pembrook Park, a Jane Austen-themed retreat in England, complete with actors to realise the guests’ Austen-Fantasy. Charlotte chooses to go by the name Charlotte Cordial who is screenplayed to be the sister of “Edmund Grey” another actor at Pembrook Park with her love interest being “Mr. Mallery”.

The two weeks’ stay at Pembrook Park replete with romance, mysteries, travelling in carriages and horses, wearing corsets and gowns and everything that is typical to 19th century England makes a good base for the rest of the story. While she is away at Austenland, Charlotte’s life seems to be falling back into place, and making her a befitting heroine of the story that Austen would have most definitely been proud of creating.

Casual read

When you start reading Midnight in Austenland, you actually begin to wonder how the plot could possibly develop and what would become of the story, especially with the lead heroine being portrayed more or less like any other heart-broken woman making a trip to escape and forget the horrors that haunt her done-and-dealt with married life. Just when that thought seems to float on the surface, Shannon Hale ropes you back into the story with a murder mystery you don’t see coming.

Hale has added the right amount of everything from humour to romance in this suspense thriller. If you wish to escape into a world of fantasy and dwell in it through Charlotte Constance Cordial — Midnight in Austenland would make the perfect read.

Title: Midnight in Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Price: Rs. 299

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