Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Return to Austenland

Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale
In Book 1, far-fetched variables came together with such frivolous whimsy that it deflected my disbelief.  It was so fun and light I could let the unlikelihoods slide in the interests of chortling throughout and enjoying a happy ending.

Learning there was a Book 2 founded upon essentially the same far-fetched variables, I was dubious.  How could reading this book end any way other than disbelief crashing the party like a messy old ex-boyfriend?  The answers is: it could not.  The party ended with Book 1, peops;
  • I can see the direction Hale has taken here -- in letting the darkness in; having more scenes set in the evening and night-time, re-casting the romantic homestead as an ominous mansion, shading the flashbacks by regret (or at least sombre retrospection) -- I get it.  Some darkness does many stories a world of good.  Sadly, what made the entire silly gambit of a place where people go and play dress up as characters from another period fly in the first book was that it was light, playful, and optimistic.  The corniness worked better when the overall tone was hopeful and warm -- our heroine knew it was silly, but she wanted to do it anyway.  Although some playfulness remains, the attempts to introduce shadows to this same world has an effect much like a campfire torchlight beneath a storyteller's face -- it distorts a normally pleasant composition of angles and features to become something very different -- something gruesome, unrecognisable, or comical.  I couldn't buy into the unlikelihoods anymore.  It wasn't as fun.
  • It was difficult to maintain interest after the climactic reveal.  I didn't particularly even want to keep reading.
  • Book 2 had more moments that simply felt wrong...like they made me uncomfortable in a bad way -- not that they challenged me or made me rethink my world views -- more that I was squirming "Noooooooo!" 
  • Female characters seemed unbelievable, powerless, or sappy.  
  • I prefer reading medieval pastoral Hale to contemporary Hale.
Some great lines here and there, but not the simmering romance or fun of the first.  Skippable.

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