THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB by Karen Joy Fowler

Reviewed by Nordeen Morello of Book’em
Poll

book(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 publisher@larchmontgazette.com.


 

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