Thursday, June 25, 2009

REVIEW: Lost in Austen, by Emma Campbell Webster

Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, by Emma Campbell Webster. Published 2007 by Riverhead Books. Fiction. Humor.

Lost in Austen is not a chick lit novel, nor is it a Jane Austen primer, and nor is it coming to a theater near you anytime soon. What it is, is a hoot.

Lost in Austen is a mix of choose-your-own-adventure and role-play style book, in which you the reader take on the persona of Elizabeth Bennett, heroine of Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice. You are tasked with finding a husband, but not just any husband. At every turn in the story you are given options from which to choose and must follow the right path to marry and marry successfully. And this isn't as easy as it might seem.

Although set primarily in the world of Pride and Prejudice, the story interweaves characters and situations from most if not all of Austen's novels, including Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park and others, so some glancing familiarity with them will help you on your journey. For example, it helps to know, for example, that Mr. Elton is a cad to be avoided- but all you really need to know is that you're supposed to marry Mr. Darcy and no one else.

Along the way you will also gain and lose points in a variety of categories- fortune, confidence, and intelligence- which will eventually influence the success or failure of your journey, so keep a piece of paper and a pencil handy as you read. And don't take the very snarky tone of the narrator too personally. For example, at one point you may be asked to play a little music, but you demur owing to your lack of skill. The narrator has this to say: "You're not just being modest; you really do play the piano remarkably ill." And if you fail in your mission to marry successfully, you may be faced with something like the following:
That didn't take you long, did it? You have failed to complete your mission. You didn't even get NEAR completing it, in fact. You deserve to be disfigured. Be ashamed.
Not everyone will be comfortable with this level of brutal sarcasm, so just keep that in mind if you decide to enter the world of Lost in Austen!

I had a lot of fun playing/reading this book. I enjoyed the dark humor and the way all my favorite (and not-so-favorite) characters from other Austen novels make their appearance, all very true to character. The gothic-manga style illustrations give a modern twist and a breath of fresh air to Austen's world. Campbell Watson does a nice job reproducing Austen's tone and style and adapting the story to the choose-your-own-adventure format; it's a very original use of the Austen stories and it's just a really fun way to while away a little time. Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I got frustrated, and sometimes I just kept track of points and pages. And when I failed to marry my Mr. Darcy- and I did fail, many times- I could always just flip back to the beginning and start over.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.