Dear Shannon Hale -
You did it. You wrote the book that filled the gap between us and him; the gap we couldn't articulate for ourselves. I'm still reeling from finishing this book. I read from 11 pm to 3:00 am for the last two nights (I work during the day and teach in the evenings) because I couldn't put it down. I read the book at stoplights on the way to and from work and my classes. I haven't read while driving since....well, ever, really. Unless you count notes for an exam I didn't study for on the way to the exam itself.
Initially, I was excited to find this novel. Then I was pissed that I didn't write it first. Then, to narrow that down, I was so envious of you. How did it feel that moment when you thought of Austenland and knew it could be a book and that you were going to write it? That's just between you and the idea and the writing and it's better than any romance, hands down. I'm positively green.
I have already referred the book to 10 people today, and counting. There better be a movie.
I admit, I wanted to hate you as a fellow writer. I wanted to find bad things about the book to balance my envy, so I would feel better about not having been its author. I thought I had you when there were several back to back Jane-Martin scenes and the rest of the 'cast' fell by the wayside, but then you did what you were supposed to in the next chapter--brought her back around to her purpose and brought Mr. Nobley to the fore.
So, instead, I had to grudgingly admit that you write really well. The structure of the book is tight (the motif of listing past boyfriends is terrific), your metaphors felt like a cool breeze in my mind, your descriptions of the house and gardens and the characterizations were all fresh and bright, the way the world looks after a strong summer shower. Sparkling. I am a happy reader again. I believe in good books again.
And let me tell you, I've been making a real effort, reading Booker Prize this and Orange Prize that. (Yawn.) Not a lot out there with some Zing, if I may borrow from your heroine, Jane Hayes.
I can also admit that I'm one of those women that watches the BBC P&P often. Definitely on New Year's Eve with the party bag of M&Ms and a phone, which I use to call my best friend in LA so we can talk about our favorite parts and she can listen in while giving her kids a bath. My fave - the night after the house party at Pemberley, where he's unable to sleep and comes downstairs, disheveled, with a candle, to the drawing room where he and Elizabeth locked eyes over the piano, and stands quietly, remembering the scene and smiling shyly, as if he, just at that moment, isn't thinking about pride, money, or class. He really understands that he loves her. Simply. Humbly. No B.S. Yes, the lake scene is good; he looks delicious in the wet shirt, but the pond was really scummy, wasn't it? I just couldn't get past that...My OCD kicking in, I guess.
Here's the big confession: Jane is me. You sort of freed me, in a way, from any remnants of my own very un-Darcyesque ex-boyfriends. I'm tempted to write each a little paragraph as Jane did, just for fun. Then burn them of course. Don't have a wok to use, like she did, but I'll improvise. When she says to herself, 'I'm burying the wishful part of me...I'm real now,' inside I heard, Me too. You saved me months of therapy!
Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. I'm going to be carrying the book in my bag for a long time. It's perfect for a rainy Saturday, or a long plane ride. To England, perhaps?
Could you write Green Gables Land now?