Customer Reviews for

The Jane Austen Book Club

Average Rating 3
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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

7 out of 7 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 January 11, 2008

    Lacked a lot.......

    I was very disappointed by the Jane Austen Book Club. I am a fan of Jane myself and was looking forward to the book and movie. The book was a very slow read because it lacked a lot of plot. There was no climax and no end result. The book just started and then stopped. I am usually a fast and avid reader but it took me almost 2 months to read this short book. I never saw the movie but I will rent it when it comes out. I imagine the movie will be better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2007

    Problematic

    Jane Austens Book Club makes a sincer attempt. However I found this book was really slow and at times unreadable. Other times I found it quite enjoyable. The sexual content wasn't as profound as I was lead to believe by other reviews. I think the concept of the story is very good but the end product at times seemed a little sloppy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2006

    Lost Opportunity

    I found this novel to be better than several of the reviewers here would lead one to believe but certainly nowhere nearly as good as I had been led to believe. I was disappointed because I felt the storyline was a great idea and a great opportunity for a good writer to develop. Unfortunately it often fell flat and much of the time the characters were uninteresting or annoying. I stuck with it to the end but really can't recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2005

    Cover Art Best Part of the Book

    The glowing cover blurbs made me think this would be a great book-- it's not. The writing is trite and the characters are rude and boring. None of them are particularly likeable. It's not bad enough to quit reading halfway through, but, fortunately, it is a short book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2005

    High ambitions, but a disappointment...

    I was really excited about this novel because I love all of Jane Auten's works. I was disappointed after reading this though. Fowler has very little imagination and the 'drama' is very disconnected. The characters were flat and, as a reader, I was unable to relate to them. Perhaps if one read this just for a 'beach read' it wouldn't be so bad, thus the two stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2005

    Hugely disappointing

    Take an group of uninteresting, narrow, insipid characters; add a story where nothing happens; and you have one of the most boring critically acclaimed books ever written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2004

    Higly disappointing

    My bookclub chose to read this book and we all were very very disappointed. In fact, 90% of us quit reading it halfway through - I even left my copy in Nice, France because I didn't want to lug that hardcover waste around with me. The author did not seem to know where she wanted the story to be. Very disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2004

    Disapointing

    After reading the reviews on this book, I was very excited to read it. However, I was disapointed in both the character development and the erratic plot lines. I never got to the point where I cared about any of the characters or what happened to them. And I felt like the Jane Austin references to the book were merely a gimmic to get me to read it. If you are interested in a truly engaging book about a book club, read Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Overrated!

    I think the critics who went ga-ga over this book don't understand Jane Austen's novels. This book was simplistic and condescending, confusing and obvious, and did not endear a single one of its characters to this reader. Jane Austen would have found it an object to ridicule.

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    Posted March 4, 2010

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    Posted May 15, 2011

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    Posted November 7, 2008

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    Posted August 2, 2009

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    Posted February 22, 2010

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