Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club. Karen Joy Fowler. 2004. Penguin. 288 pages.

Each of us has a private Austen.

Five women and one man come together to read all six of Jane Austen's novels in Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club. Jocelyn. Sylvia. Allegra. Bernadette. Prudie. Grigg. Each of the six is responsible for leading one book. Each is struggling (a bit) in their personal lives. What effect can Austen have on their lives? Can reading Austen turn their lives around?

What I liked most about this one was the writing. Fowler can be very clever, very amusing, very observant in places. Some of the members made observations about the novels that I'd not noticed before. Their insights made me think about Austen's works in a new way. I'm not saying *all* of "the insights" of the members did. Not even close. But a few did. Take for example Grigg's observation on Sense and Sensibility:

"The whole beginning sequence has something of a fairy tale about it...With a lovely twist. Once upon a time, after the death of her beloved husband, a gentle stepmother was forced to live in a house ruled by her wicked stepdaughter." (46)
The book is a novel about friendships, about relationships, about people trying to find a way to be happy, to be loved, to be well.

Another thing I really appreciated were the small little details. For example, she includes "Questions for Discussion" with each of her characters (Jocelyn, Grigg, Bernadette, Prudie, Allegra, Sylvia) asking readers a few questions about Austen.

Grigg: Many science fiction readers also love Austen. Why do you suppose this is true? Do you think many Austen readers love science fiction?

Sylvia: Is love better the second time around? Is a good book better the second time around? Is the book you love most also the one you reread the most? Is the person you love most the person you want to spend the most time with?

Jocelyn: Is it rude to give a person a book as a gift and then ask later if the person liked it? Would you ever do that?
I don't know that I'd say I loved this one. But I did like it.

The movie. In some ways I liked it better than the book. I thought they did a good job in showing the dynamics of the group. And some of the back stories of the characters were reworked. Some just came up in dialogue. But other "past" stories became "present" stories so that they fit more within the narrative. But some of my favorite things about the book didn't make it into the movie, not in the same way at least. So I definitely liked reading this one. The movie is just different.

The trailer:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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