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Friday, November 10, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: 7th November 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance, chick lit, contemporary
My Rating: 4 crowns

After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.
Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.
With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
My Thoughts

I was excited to read this book, thinking it to be fun escapism. However, it proved to be so much more than that! Yes there was a romance and period dressing up, even the selection of characters revealed a subtle insight into their persona - but it is not just a simple retelling of a Jane Austen tale through modern eyes. The beauty and cleverness (if truth be told) of this story was placing someone from the present day into an Austen story and recounting it through their eyes and experiences. Combine that with homage paid to the great Jane Austen (‘Persuasion’ is here in all it’s glory with the misunderstandings and second chances) that one cannot help but be impressed.

“He twisted the book to see the spine. “Of course. Pride and Prejudice.” “I think they have one in every room.” “And why not? It’s a manual for life—setting right pride, prejudice, misconceptions, and self-illusions. Also some good fun.”

Oh! How I would love to go on such an ‘Austen Escape’ and lose myself in Regency England -  that alone would have been a fun tale. Yet that was a mere backdrop, in some ways, to the true message behind this tale. This is a book about friendships, forgiveness, growth and having the strength to be yourself. Each of the characters here have a checkered past, things they struggled to move on from and it’s good to take the journey into a fresh start with them.

“simply enjoy the costumes, the carriage rides, and the long walks, then sit here and check e-mail, work, or watch television.”

Then, of course, there is the insurmountable Jane Austen. You will relish the tributes to her books, the clever insights into the characters and plot with the inclusion of many a good quote. Fans of Austen will appreciate the many references, yet anyone would enjoy this character driven tale whether you were an Austen addict or not. Having read Katherine Reay's books before, I knew that she draws you into both place and person. This book demonstrates her ability to seamlessly switch between an escape to Regency England combined with the high tech of our modern world - ipads included! She will engage you with relatable characters and instill a sense of hope in you with a touch of realism.

“I mustered up a smile and looped my arm through hers. “We shall walk. When there are serious matters to discuss, Austen women walk.”

Take a break - though phones are allowed - and step inside an Austen character, not to discover who they are, but who you are! It’s witty, it’s fun and I highly recommend it to Austen fans for a sprinkling of all the famous and well loved characters she created, plus a whole lot more.

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. She elicited laughter, warmth, and even a sense of awe. Across two hundred years, I recognized her characters in the here and now. She wrote about people I knew.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

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