Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club (movie tie-in)Book: The Jane Austen Book Club
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Published: A Plume Book, 2004
How I got this book: bought it at a thrift store
Why I read this book: I love books about book lovers so I gave this one a try!
Rating: 3 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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 behaviour 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.

My thoughts (*possible spoilers*):  I read quite a few negative or mediocre reviews about The Jane Austen Book Club before picking it up off my shelf. I was hesitant to read it, but I actually enjoyed this novel for the most part. The title is a bit off putting; once you start reading you will see that this is not a novel about Jane Austen, but about the people in the Jane Austen book club. I found the characters to be interesting, although somewhat pretentious. The women of the book club were very snooty when it came to discussing the works of Jane Austen. Some of the thoughts they had about the man in the club, Grigg, bothered me. They accepted him into their group but often turned their noses up at his ideas because he wasn't as familiar with Austen as they were.

The beginning of the book had more discussions about Austen and quotes from her novels. I was enjoying how Fowler applied the events in whatever Austen novel they were reading at the time to the stories she told about her characters lives. About halfway through The Jane Austen Book Club, I felt like that really dropped off and it became a book about the characters completely. It didn't seem as cleverly written anymore. Some of the relationships in the novel really bugged me, such as the one between Jocelyn and Grigg. It seemed to me that Jocelyn was just settling in the end when she decided to take their friendship to another level. There wasn't very much chemistry between the two until she found out he had a crush on her. It felt very middle school and honestly, kind of a cop out. Fowler meant for there to be a happy ending, between Jocelyn & Grigg, and Sylvia welcoming her husband back home and into their book club. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was another matter of convenience for them to get back together.

I think too many people were expecting a book all about Jane Austen and her writing and this really wasn't that. If you are able to go into it knowing that, you will probably enjoy it more for what it is. Most of the characters are likable and it was a relatively quick read (for me). If anything, I have an urge to read all of Jane Austen's novel, and in order. If you enjoy a story about the lives and relationships of people, most who happen to be book snobs, I'd suggest you give The Jane Austen Book Club a try.

12 comments :

  1. I LOVED Grigg in this book, but am with you about the relationship between him and Jocelyn. And I was SO SO MAD when Sylvia forgave her husband. I guess that does happen in real life, but still. I think I actually threw the book down when that happened...haha.

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  2. This is one book I read after watching the movie...for some strange reason...which probably skews how I felt about the book. It was ok...but nothing memorable. I think the book club aspect is really used more as a setting than anything...most of the content, as you pointed out, is about the characters. I expected more Jane Austen as well.

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  3. This is not a book I would ordinarily read, but since I saw the movie on TV one day, I was curious as to what your thoughts were.

    Nice review.

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  4. I've yet to pick this one up as well, but thanks for your review - I'm now much more informed and will go into it with open eyes!

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  5. Like many I have watched the movie but was hesitant to read the book. Looks like I will have to give it a shot...I dont expect great literature but fun

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  6. This is one of those times where I've seen the movie but not read the book. I liked the movie. But that may have mostly been because they cast Hugh Dancy as Grigg.. love him.

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  7. Is there any chance for Love in the time of Cholera? The book was great literature and the movie has Javier Bardem (nuff said). It's still a hot book club selection in South Florida (http://bookshop02092.blogspot.com)

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  8. I really need to get around to reading the book, because I LOVE the movie.

    There were two things about the ending (in the movie) that bothered me, one of them being that Daniel and Sylvia get back together. I know it's supposed to be a good thing, but I was disappointed about it.

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  9. I love this book!! I'm not a huge Jane Austen fan, and so this book was really a great introduction for me. And I liked the movie just as much!

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  10. I love this book a whole lot, and I'm also a huge fan of the movie. If you're dissatisfied about the way the romances are handled in the book, definitely give the movie a shot--it's one of the rare times where I find that sometimes the movie handles things better than the book. You get more backstory on the characters in the novel, as it's more of a character study, but since the movie is a romcom, there's more focus on the romance.

    Jocelyn and Grigg's relationship is given a lot more focus (Grigg is also ADORABLY played by Hugh Dancy) and depth. You can also see why Sylvia might have forgiven Daniel. Plus, there's an absolutely priceless Mansfield Park discussion, the one book we didn't see discussed in the novel.

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  11. Interesting review! :)
    I really didn't like this book, I stopped reading it somewhere after the middle, but later I watched the movie and liked it much better. All the characters where kind of un-likeable in the book (to me), but in the movie I found I did like most of them.
    I really like the Grigg and Jocelyn storyline in the movie.
    But I was also not too happy with Sylvia taking back Daniel...

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  12. This is one of those cases where the movie is actually better than the book. Seriously. Way better. I loved the movie so I thought I'd give the book a try and was sorely disappointed. If you want, check out my review on it here: http://booksteame.com/2013/06/03/the-jane-austen-book-club-book-review/

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