Austensibly Ordinary is a novel which follows the main character Cate Kendall, a high school English teacher who loves Jane Austen. Cate is bored of her life, and wants to shake things up. Just when Cate thinks she’s going to be stuck in her rut forever she finds a mysterious journal and thus begins a rollercoaster which includes a saucy alter ego, a mysterious but handsome man, and uncovered secrets about her long time Scrabble partner, Ethan.
This novel is…something, that’s for sure. I’m not quite sure if “something” is good or bad, even as I was reading it I found myself putting it down and sighing with frustration at the glacial pace of the plot, and simultaneously confused when the plot seemed to surge forward to an entirely new subplot with little to no warning.
As I was flipping back through the early chapters to write this book review, I realised that this book defies categorising in a genre. It has elements of mystery, supernatural with an overall wrapping of chick-lit, with some literary references to Jane Austen thrown in for good measure, I guess?
This book meanders… my god, it meanders for page after page, with an inner monologue from the primary character that left me with the urge to do a shot of vodka just to force myself through the next chapter (I didn’t do the vodka shot, I wanted to be on top of my game to write this review). The “romances” come in two varieties, “insta-love” and “oh my god, I just realised I love you”. Without going into too much detail and spoiling the entire book, it’s a horrible mass of cliches when it comes to romance. I suppose one could argue that Jane Austen used cliches to write her romances, but her books are remembered as classics…this will not be remembered as such.
It’s like the author spun a big wheel with a bunch of different plot options on it and picked them at total random, then looked at the list of results and went “yeah, this works.” In my opinion it does not work.
Everything I’ve read about writing a good book review say that you should write about the things you disliked about the book first, and finish on the positives, so I’m going to give that a try… Bear with me.
Okay, but seriously, the book is pretty awful. It might be worth the read if you’re looking for something that you can literally zone out to while you read it, and don’t really care about engaging with, because let me tell you, you are unlikely to feel any empathy for the whiny main character in her quest to “shake things up”
In summary, read this book if you feel you might like it, but don’t go pick it up based on the punny title (exactly why I picked it up, and clearly I didn’t love it) or if you’re under the impression that it will make you think of Jane Austen as a literary genius and hold Alyssa Goodnight up as her equal.
Goodreads average rating: 3.27 stars out of 5. (at time of publication of this blog, there are 297 ratings, and the majority are 3 stars)
My rating: 1 star out of 5.