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.