The Jane Austen Book Club
Any other fans of Jane Austen out there in Tartlandia, or am I alone? If there are no other fans, WHY NOT?!? …I know, I know, “To each his own,” right?
Well, I am an unabashed fan. I have read all six of her novels (my favorite and most beloved being Pride & Prejudice). I enjoy most of the books’ film adaptations (although my favorite P&P ones are the updated versions: Bridget Jones’ Diary and the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries .
I am even thinking of giving Pride, Prejudice & Zombies a go. Zombies aren’t really my cup of tea (See La Revelant if they’re yours), but *Pride & Prejudice!*, am I right??
My love of Austen is what lead me to The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. I had heard of it while watching a Hyperhyperduo YouTube video geared toward gift ideas for the Jane Austen fan (Hey! That’s me!).
I then happened upon a copy while browsing Half Price Books with a dear friend. The prologue was well written and witty and more Jane Austen bits were promised.
I bought it. (We could go on rabbit trail about me mostly being a borrower of books rather than a buyer, but let’s not.)
The set up was simple enough: Follow six characters (Jocelyn, Sylvia, Prudie, Bernadette, Grigg, and Allegra) over six months as they meet to discuss each of Austen’s six novels. -insert joke about evil omens here-
This story is similar to Austen’s work in that it is a story about people and their interactions & relationships with others.
Jocelyn ties everyone together. The book club was her idea. She plans and orchestrates and prefers to have everything happen just so. She is a matchmaker and often attempts to set couples up even though she describes herself as happily unmarried.
Sylvia is Jocelyn’s oldest and closest friend. They met when they were 11. Jocelyn even introduced Sylvia to the man, Daniel, who would become her husband. That bit of history is not as happy at the moment because after 30+ years of marriage, Daniel has asked for a divorce. The book club may be Jocelyn’s attempt to distract her friend during a difficult time.
The club is a motley crew. In addition to Jocelyn & Sylvia we have:
Prudie, a high-school French teacher that likes herself better when she speaks in French.
Bernadette, the eldest member of the group at 67. Her introduction in the prologue made me laugh:
“She’d recently announced that she was, officially, letting herself go. ‘I just don’t look in the mirror anymore,’ she told us. ‘I wish I’d thought of it years ago….
‘Like a vampire,’ she added, and when she put it that way, we wondered how it was that vampires always managed to look so dapper. It seems that more of them should look like Bernadette.”
Grigg, the only male and unknown to the majority of the group (the group that has “known Jocelyn long enough to wonder whom Grigg was intended for.”)
And Allegra, Sylvia’s daughter. She is “a creature of extremes -either stuffed or starving, freezing or boiling…”.
I found the characters interesting, well drawn, and full of depth. It was interesting to see how each of them related to Austen’s work and each other. Over the six months life happens. People learn, grow, and change.
It is a story about people and I enjoyed reading it. You may like it even if you’re not an Austen fan. Maybe you will be a Fowler fan.
Sent from my iMagination,
P.S. If you are an Austen fan please tell me in the comments!!
In California’s central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen’s novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behavior and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.
Dedicated Austenites will delight in unearthing the echoes of Austen that run through the novel, but most readers will simply enjoy the vision and voice that, despite two centuries of separation, unite two great writers of brilliant social comedy.