Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: The Austen Escape

The Austen Escape. Katherine Reay. 2017. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "How can I help?" The world stilled. It wasn't the first time I wondered how one voice, one presence, could quicken the air and simultaneously stop all motion. Nathan.

Premise/plot: Mary Davies is struggling at work. She's not loving her new boss or the new style of doing business. (She's an engineer.) So it doesn't take a lot of persuasion to get Mary to take a trip with her best friend, Isabel Dwyer. The trip is to Bath, to Braithwaite House. Dressing up in Regency-era clothes is part of the trip, and, Mary is nervous but happy to escape from the real world for a week or two. But her friend's escape is a little too literal. A psychological breakdown has Isabel convinced she *is* Emma Woodhouse. (All the guests have assumed roles from Austen's novels.) Nathan, whom she knows from work, whom she's crushed on for almost a year, flies over to help her take care of her friend. The vacation doesn't go as planned; but all the characters gain new perspectives. Mary will come to see herself, her friend, and Nathan from a much-needed new perspective. Mary has spent most of her life as "sidekick" or SK. She's never been a "heroine." But who's holding her back? Is it Isabel and their unhealthy friendship spanning decades? Or is it herself?

My thoughts: Though published by a Christian publisher, The Austen Escape isn't heavy on anything spiritual. Far from it. It is for anyone and everyone who enjoys Jane Austen. Perhaps for those that enjoyed Shannon Hale's Austenland or Midnight in Austenland. It is a clean, contemporary romance. Isabel falls for a guy over vacation, as does Mary. (Though Mary knew Nathan from before.) The characters like to socially drink alcohol and go to bars, etc.

What makes a book "Christian"? Is it a matter of who is publishing it? Is it a matter of the author's faith? Is it a matter of content and themes? Mary does learn a bit about forgiveness and new starts in this one. Mary also begins to deal with her grief. But there is nothing of spiritual substance in this one. For better or worse. Nothing preaching. Nothing moralizing. The great lessons learned have little to do with discussion of God, of faith, of church, of Scripture.

I did enjoy it. I do love Jane Austen. I enjoyed exploring the incredibly complex friendship between Mary and Isabel. The romance was nice--predictable but nice.

Favorite quote:
Austen really had a thing against Mary. I'd met Mary Bennet first. Then came Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park. She initially misled me. She had all the wit and vivacity of a Lizzy Bennet, but it took me time to catch on. She had none of the wisdom--no discretion. And she got no happy ending. And now Mary Elliot...We Mary weren't a kind and gentle lot. We didn't grow. We didn't change. We didn't get redeemed. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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