THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB by Karen Joy Fowler
Reviewed by Nordeen Morello of Book’em
(September 23, 2004) Book-‘Em selected The
Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
as a seemingly obvious sequel after Reading
Lolita In Tehran and then reading a Jane Austen novel
of our choice.
In the book, six people meet six times over six chapters
to discuss their idol’s six novels. Fowler uses the “society” of
a book club to create her own Austen-esque group. She also
uses the experience of re-reading Austen’s works
to highlight how personal an individual’s reading
habits and perceptions are: we each extract meaning and
messages from a novel based on our own lives, experiences,
hopes and dreams.
Much as Austen did in her novels, Fowler renders six believable,
likeable and semi-flawed characters to populate the book.
Unfortunately, this was not the novel we had envisioned from
its title. Overall, “pleasant” was the
highest praise any of us expressed for the book and “inconsequential,” “not
worth it,” and “not special” were other
comments. However, Fowler does write well and expresses some
memorable ideas. Bernadette, the book clubs oldest member,
is “officially letting herself go.” We had fun
with that one!
It is worth noting that The Jane Austen Book Club received
critical acclaim in reviews at the time of its publication.
It has been widely chosen as a selection by book groups across
the country. In fact, several members commented on how market-savvy
it was these days to write a book about a book group.
An interesting part of the evening’s discussion centered
on one of the character’s belief that Austen’s
works should be considered “dangerous.” “…Books
that people really do believe…how virtue will be
recognized and rewarded. How love will prevail. How life
is a romance.” Are these the sentiments we want to
offer young people today? Every member heartily agreed
that they might be preferable to the dark and/or sad tragedies
our children are exposed to as “required reading” from
elementary school through high school. One Book-‘Em
member felt that “today, our world is so dark and
tragic, they need to read something happy.”
While a book about a book club should provide plenty of
material for a book group to discuss, this one did not work
for ours. Maybe it would for yours?
FROM THE EDITORS: Find reviews contributed
by other local book clubs at: www.larchmontgazette.com. We'd
love to hear from other Larchmont book clubs and readers;
email us at email@example.com.
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