Customer Reviews for

The Jane Austen Book Club

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Fowler re-energizes Austen fans

Nashville City Paper Bookclub June 10, 2004 Saralee says Jane Austen sells more than just about any other author today, dead or alive. What is it about an author who was first published in 1803 that makes her so relevant today? Austen wrote more than six books and eve...
Nashville City Paper Bookclub June 10, 2004 Saralee says Jane Austen sells more than just about any other author today, dead or alive. What is it about an author who was first published in 1803 that makes her so relevant today? Austen wrote more than six books and every time I re-read one I wish she were still writing today. With The Jane Austen Book Club (Putnam), Karen Joy Fowler, who was a PEN/Faulkner award finalist for her book Sister Noon, has written a great story that should satisfy even the most finicky Janeite. Five women and one man form the Jane Austen book club. There is the boss, Jocelyn, who is single and raises Rhodesian Ridgebacks; her best friend Sylvia whose husband of 30 years has just left her; Allegra who is gay and Sylvia's daughter; Prudie the high school French teacher; Bernadette the oldest and perhaps the most adventuresome who has had numerous husbands; and Grigg, the only male, a science fiction fan who intrigues and frustrates the club when he compares Austen to Ursula LeGuin. When the club discusses Emma we learn all about Jocelyn. Sense and Sensibility provides us with Allegra's story, Mansfield Park covers Prudie's story, Northanger Abbey is about Grigg, Pride and Prejudice concerns Bernadette, and we conclude with Persuasion and Sylvia. What is your favorite Austen book and why? I loved Fowler's Reader's Guide at the end of the book. There is a summary of the six Austen novels covered in this book and 'The Response' which includes comments from the critics and friends of Austen during her life. Who was your favorite character in Fowler's book? Did you like the way she matched her characters to one of Austen's novels? I especially enjoyed the characters' discussion of the book Persuasion and the very dignified way Sylvia conducted her life. The conclusion was very appropriate and satisfying to a Janeite like me. Not since The Secret Life of Bees (Penguin) has a book been so compatible for book club discussion. Larry's Language I did not pick this book. It was obviously my beautiful wife's choice because it is a clear example of chick lit, fiction focused on women, romance, personal feelings, social standing and all those things that Jane Austen wrote 200 years ago. Not much, except the names of the guilty parties, has changed. Fowler's book club in The Jane Austen Book Club is composed of five women and one poor man whose role clearly is to be manipulated first by his sisters and then by these smarter, sharper, neater and more stylish women. By the end of the book he has learned his proper place in life and literature, just like the men in Austen's books. How can the smarter gender like my wife keep reading and rereading these same stories? Surely they figured out the social graces, the class structure, and the true meaning of life the first time or two. Or maybe the Austen fans are frustrated because the men in their real lives are not properly trained so they live out their fantasies in the world that Austen created. If you think I am exaggerating about this somewhat engaging book that is a cross between a novel and a social commentary, just read these statements by Fowler: 'I think we should be all women ¿ the dynamic changes with men. They pontificate rather than communicate. They talk more than their share.' I ask you, who knew they were counting the words? Then Fowler writes, 'Besides, men don't do book clubs ¿ . They see reading as a solitary pleasure.' Obviously, in some social circles, there can only be one proper way to read a book. Fowler should attend my men's book club where we not only pontificate but view it as a great opportunity for food, gossip and politics. Actually I enjoyed this book because it was provocative and stimulating. Following Fowler's advice, happy endings are the important thing and she provides Austen type resolutions for most of her book club members.

posted by Anonymous on June 18, 2004

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Learning to Love

Although THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB was a light, easy read; unfortunately, that meant it didn't have much depth to it. The characters and their stories weren't as fleshed out as I would have hoped. I got to know and appreciate some of the characters more than others, but...
Although THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB was a light, easy read; unfortunately, that meant it didn't have much depth to it. The characters and their stories weren't as fleshed out as I would have hoped. I got to know and appreciate some of the characters more than others, but -- for example -- was exhausted [YAWN] reading Prudie's story in Chapter 3. I think there was too much history/background provided for each character. They supposedly "learned to love" thanks to Austen's books, but their limited time in the present didn't allow me to feel much personal interaction between the central characters as I should have. When something happened to them, I couldn't emote. "Austen can plot like a son of a b*tch!" Too bad Folwer can't.

Fowler does have a way with words and provide some memorable quotes throughout her novel, though, I'll give her that. She sets up concepts that make you think...

"...all parents wanted an impossible life for their children -- happy beginning, happy middle, happy ending. No plot of any kind. What uninteresting people would result if parents got their way."
"Happiness in marriage is mostly a matter of chance."

...and sometimes laugh...

"[He] had too much hair and not enough neck."
"A charming, unattached man was too valuable to throw away just because you had no immediate use for him."

Having somehow never read Jane Austen throughout my years of English classes, I got a bit distracted when Fowler's characters started talking about Austen's characters during one of their book club sessions. Fortunately (although too late), I discovered that at the back of the book there were summaries (mini CliffNotes, if you will) for each of Austen's books. I wish I had known this prior to finishing the book, as it would have helped a bit to feel like I, too, was in the discussion more during the book club sessions. I'm not saying that you need to have read Austen's books before reading JABC, but it certainly would help to be familiar with Austen's storylines and characters, as well as have an appreciation for Austen's literary style and who she was as a person. "Austen was no occasion for displays of ego."

All in all, I think Fowler does have potential as a writer because she can write dialogue "like a son of a b*tch," but she needs to develop her characters and their interactions much more to give us a reason to care about them.

"Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig [Jane Austen] up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone." - Mark Twain

posted by eak321 on April 14, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2007

    Misleading title for a disappointing and disgusting book

    Because the writer chose to include Jane Austen's name in the title of this not only disappoingting, but thoroughly disgusting book, I believe future readers should be made aware of the content of this novel because critics and sellers reviews are totally misleading. I recently purchased two copies of this from my book club, one was to have been a birthday gift for a young lady who has just gotten acquainted with Jane Austen's writing and has begun devouring her marvellous books. I waded part way through my copy (thankfully, before I gave away the birthday gift copy) and was apalled at the blatant and disgusting sexual content. I returned both copies to my book club at once with my scathing review and reasons for return. It is clear from the the title alone, that the author set out to prey upon the lovers of the works of Jane Austen in an attempt to cash-in on this very lucrative market. Unsuspecting readers beware!

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2008

    Don't read unless you want to be bored to death. . .

    Did not and will not finish this book, very disappointed as I am a huge Jane Austen fan and had hoped to see how the author might be able to tie it all together. I was not able to connect with any of the characters and failed to see the point of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2008

    A big zero

    My book club read this book and it was universally disliked. It was more like snippets of information rather than a story that developed into anything even remotely interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    I was nauseated by this book. Fowler's love of crassness is most vividly realized in this pitiful excuse of a book! If you have to write junk, get to it, but don't besmirch such a wonderful author as Jane Austen.She never displayed such uncalled for crap in her exceptinal works, and yet this 'book' has her name in the title. Please don't waste your time and more importantly don't pollute your mind with this

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2006

    not worthy of the title

    There should be a rule requiring permission to use Ms. Austen's name. This book disgusted me so much that I could not get through half of it. If you love Ms. Austen, do not even attempt to lay your eyes on this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2007

    My good opinion once lost is lost forever

    After reading Rebecca's review, I doubted whether my opinion could contribute valuable new insights. Rarely have I been so thoroughly disappointed by a book that seemed so promising on the outset. Jane Austen is worthy of many a book club with amateur or expert discussions. As much as she is a joy to read, she is a treasure to discuss amongst Austen adepts. Why then does Joy Fowler do so poorly? Her characters are developed weakly, the omniscient narrator has rarely been imposed so uselessly and none of Austen's wit or irony pervades the book. I was waiting to be taken in by at least one of the protagonists, hoping that they would induce the warmth and intimacy that characterizes many a good novel. I was disappointed up to the very end. None of the characters sparkle, not even Jocelyn who has so much potential to become an enchanting heroine. Surely a novel called `The Jane Austen book club¿ that is acclaimed so highly by many a decent newspaper should live up to at least mediocre standards? I cannot believe an intelligent and inspired writer such as Alice Sebold has conspired against thousands of readers by claiming `If I could eat this novel, I would¿. Even a glass of water is more tasty than this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2006

    One star...only because ZERO wasn't an option...

    As an English teacher and long-time Austen fan, the title of the book intrigued me, as did the rave reviews on the jacket--all the more reason to live by the adage that you should never judge a book by its cover. First, I was put off by the fact that our FIRST PERSON narrator was somehow, miraculously, omniscient. A little strange, but OK, I'll buy it. But then, about 2/3 of the way through the book, it hit me: our omniscient FIRST PERSON narrator is not a character in the story!! 'The six of us--Jocelyn, Bernadette, Sylvia, Allegra, Prudie, and Grigg--made up the full roster of the Central Valley/River City all-Jane Austen-all-the-time book club.' (p. 5)Somehow, among all the I's and We's, no one stopped to notice that they were not attached to a character in the novel. How did no one catch that before publishing, let alone making it to the bestseller list? It's the oversight of the century, but at least it completely overshadows the dry, go-nowhere plotline and the slapdash character development.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2004

    EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED

    This book was boring. The reader learns very little about the author's characters and the tie in to Austen's plots is confusing. I considered this purchase and time spent a waste. In hundreds of books, I have purchased from your web site, it is the most disappointing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2004

    Our Entire Bookclub Disliked This Book

    I would hope that if you were intimately acquainted with all of Jane Austen's novels you would find this book interesting. If you are not so acquainted you will probably find this book to be thin on substance and long on boredom. It is difficult to get up much of any enthusiasm for the characters as the 'plot' is so disjointed. This book plays to the lowest common denominator of chicklit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2004

    Not Worthy

    This book was not worthy of baring the name Jane Austen in it's title. It was boring and unimaginative. I would not recommend this book to anyone it was a waste of time and money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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