Saturday, November 24, 2012

"The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler



I liked this book okay.  I didn't love it.  I didn't dislike it.  While I was reading it, it kept my attention very nicely, and I finished it in just a few days.  Basically, it's precisely what I'd consider a "beach book" -- something to read when you don't want to be distracted from real life too much.

The book club in the title is formed by five women and one man.  Jocelyn breeds dogs, is a bit of a control freak, and starts the club with an ulterior motive:  her best friend Sylvia's marriage is ending, and the other members suspect the club is supposed to distract Sylvia from her problems.  Sylvia's daughter Allegra is also going through a difficult breakup -- her girlfriend is, among other things, a liar -- and has just moved back home to be with her mom now that her dad is gone.  Prudie is a reasonably happily married woman who teaches high school French.  Bernadette is the quirkiest of the bunch -- she loves to talk, has given up looking in the mirror, and is the surest of just who she really is.  And Grigg is the lone male, a sort of lost puppy needing adoption.

The most interesting thing about this book, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's narrated by the group as a whole, which comments on each character in turn.  I can't remember seeing that done before, and it was original and attention-getting.  Each chapter focuses on a different character, tells part of their back story, tells part of what's going on currently in their lives, and then the group gathers to discuss a Jane Austen book.

There are some good insights into Austen's novels sprinkled throughout the book, and those might make this an easy way to get to know Austen's works if you've never read them and are trying to figure out which one you might like to start with.

(Originally posted on Hamlette's Soliloquy on Jul. 27, 2012.)

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