THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A book club discuss the works of Jane Austen and experience their own affairs of the heart in this charming “tribute to Austen that manages to capture her spirit” (The Boston Globe).
In California’s central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen’s novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behavior and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.
Dedicated Austenites will delight in unearthing the echoes of Austen that run through the novel, but most readers will simply enjoy the vision and voice that, despite two centuries of separation, unite two great writers of brilliant social comedy.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Karen Joy Fowler, a PEN/Faulkner and California Book Award winner, is the author of six novels (two of them New York Times bestsellers) and four short story collections. She has been a Dublin IMPAC nominee, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
Date of Birth:February 7, 1950
Place of Birth:Bloomington, Indiana
Education:B.A., The University of California, Berkeley, 1972; M.A., The University of California, Davis, 1974
Read an Excerpt
in which we gather at Jocelyn's to discuss Emma
We sat in a circle on Jocelyn's screened porch at dusk, drinking cold sun tea, surrounded by the smell of her twelve acres of fresh-mowed California grass. There was a very pretty view. The sunset had been a spectacular dash of purple, and now the Berryessa mountains were shadowed in the west. Due south in the springtime, but not the summer, was a stream.
"Just listen to the frogs," Jocelyn said. We listened. Apparently, somewhere beneath the clamor of her kennel of barking dogs was a chorus of frogs.
She introduced us all to Grigg. He had brought the Gramercy edition of the complete novels, which suggested that Austen was merely a recent whim. We really could not approve of someone who showed up with an obviously new book, of someone who had the complete novels on his lap when only Emma was under discussion. Whenever he first spoke, whatever he said, one of us would have to put him in his place.
This person would not be Bernadette. Though she'd been the one to request girls only, she had the best heart in the world; we weren't surprised that she was making Grigg welcome. "It's so lovely to see a man taking an interest in Miss Austen," she told him. "Delightful to get the male perspective. We're so pleased that you're here." Bernadette never said anything once if it could be said three times. Sometimes this was annoying, but mostly it was restful. When she'd arrived, she seemed to have a large bat hanging over her ear. It was just a leaf, and Jocelyn removed it as they hugged.
Jocelyn had two portable heaters going, and the porch hummed cozily. There were Indian rugs and Spanish-tile floors of a red that might hide dog hair, depending on the breed. There were porcelain lamps in the shape of ginger jars, round and Oriental, and with none of the usual dust on the bulbs, because it was Jocelyn's house. The lamps were on timers. When it was sufficiently dark out, at the perfect moment, they would snap on all at once like a choir. This hadn't happened yet, but we were looking forward to it. Maybe someone would be saying something brilliant.
The only wall held a row of photographs-Jocelyn's dynasty of Ridgebacks, surrounded by their ribbons and pedigrees. Ridgebacks are a matriarchal breed; it's one of their many attractive features. Put Jocelyn in the alpha position and you have the makings of an advanced civilization.
Queenie of the Serengeti looked down on us, doe eyes and troubled, intelligent brow. It's hard to capture a dog's personality in a photograph; dogs suffer more from the flattening than people do, or cats even. Birds photograph well because their spirits are so guarded, and anyway, often the real subject is the tree. But this was a flattering likeness, and Jocelyn had taken it herself.
Beneath Queenie's picture, her daughter, Sunrise on the Sahara, lay, in the flesh, at our feet. She had only just settled, having spent the first half-hour moving from one of us to the next, puffing hot stagnant-pond smells into our faces, leaving hairs on our pants. She was Jocelyn's favorite, the only dog allowed inside, although she was not valuable, since she suffered from hyperthyroidism and had had to be spayed. It was a shame she wouldn't have puppies, Jocelyn said, for she had the sweetest disposition.
Jocelyn had recently spent more than two thousand dollars on vet bills for Sahara. We were glad to hear this; dog breeding, we'd heard, could make a person cruel and calculating. Jocelyn hoped to continue competing her, though the kennel would derive no benefit; it was just that Sahara missed it so. If her gait could be smoothed out-for Ridgebacks it was all about the gait-she could still show, even if she never won. (But Sahara knew when she'd lost; she became subdued and reflective. Sometimes someone was sleeping with the judge and there was nothing to be done about it.) Sahara's competitive category was Sexually Altered Bitch.
The barking outside ascended into hysteria. Sahara rose and walked stiffly to the screen door, her ridge bristling like a toothbrush.
"Why isn't Knightley more appealing?" Jocelyn began. "He has so many good qualities. Why don't I warm to him?"
We could hardly hear her; she had to repeat herself. The conditions were such, really, that we should have been discussing Jack London. . . .
Most of what we knew about Jocelyn came from Sylvia. Little Jocelyn Morgan and little Sylvia Sanchez had met at a Girl Scout camp when they were eleven years old, and they were fifty-something now. They'd both been in the Chippewa cabin, working on their wood-lore badges. They had to make campfires from teepees of kindling, and then cook over them, and then eat what they'd cooked; the requirement wasn't satisfied unless the Scout cleaned her plate. They had to identify leaves and birds and poisonous mushrooms. As if any one of them would ever eat a mushroom, poisonous or not.
For their final requirement they'd been taken in teams of four to a clearing ten minutes off and left to find their own way back. It wasn't hard, they'd been given a compass and a hint: The dining hall was southwest of them.
Camp lasted four weeks, and every Sunday Jocelyn's parents drove up from the city-three and a half hours-to bring her the Sunday funnies. "Everyone liked her anyway," Sylvia said. This was hard to believe, even for us, and we all liked Jocelyn a ton. "She was attractively ill informed."
Jocelyn's parents adored her so, they couldn't bear to see her unhappy. She'd never been told a story with a sad ending. She knew nothing about DDT or Nazis. She'd been kept out of school during the Cuban missile crisis because her parents didn't want her learning we had enemies.
"It fell to us Chippewas to tell her about communists," said Sylvia. "And child molesters. The Holocaust. Serial killers. Menstruation. Escaped lunatics with hooks for hands. The Bomb. What had happened to the real Chippewas.
"Of course, we didn't have any of it right. What a mash of misinformation we fed her. Still, it was realer than what she got at home. And she was very game, you had to admire her.
"It all came crashing down on the day we had to find our way back to camp. She had this paranoid fantasy that while we were hiking and checking our compass, they were packing up and moving out. That we would come upon the cabin and the dining hall and the latrines, but all the people would be gone. Even more, that there would be dust and spiderwebs and crumbling floorboards. It would be as if the camp had been abandoned for a hundred years. We might have told her too many Twilight Zone plots.
"But here's the weird part. On the last day, her parents came to pick her up, and on the drive back, they told her that they'd gotten divorced over the summer. In fact, she'd been sent off just for this purpose. All those Sunday drives together bringing the funnies, and they couldn't actually stand each other. Her dad was living in a hotel in San Francisco and had been the whole month she was gone. 'I eat all my meals in the hotel restaurant,' he told her. 'I just come down for breakfast and order whatever catches my fancy.' Jocelyn said he made it sound as though that were the only reason he'd moved out, because restaurant eating would be so swell. She felt she'd been traded for shirred eggs."
One day several years later he called her to say he had a touch of the flu. Nothing for her to worry her darling head about. They had tickets to a baseball game, but he didn't think he could make it, he'd have to take a rain check. Go, Giants! It turned out the flu was a heart attack. He didn't get to the hospital until he was already dead.
"No wonder she grew up a bit of a control freak," Sylvia said. With love. Jocelyn and Sylvia had been best friends for more than forty years. . . .
There's no heat with Mr. Knightley," Allegra said. She had a very expressive face, like Lillian Gish in a silent movie. She frowned when she was making a point, had done this since she was a tiny girl. "Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax meet in secret and quarrel with each other and make it up and lie to everyone they know. You believe they're in love because they behave so badly. You can imagine sex. You never feel that with Mr. Knightley." Allegra had a lullaby voice, low, yet penetrating. She was often impatient with us, but her tones were so soothing we usually realized it only afterward.
"That's true," Bernadette agreed. Behind the lenses of her tiny glasses her eyes were round as pebbles. "Emma is always saying how reserved Jane is, even Mr. Knightley says so, and he's so perceptive about everyone. But she's the only one in the whole book"-the lights came on, which made Bernadette jump, but she didn't miss a word for it-"who ever seems desperately in love. Austen says that Emma and Mr. Knightley make an unexceptional marriage." She paused reflectively. "Clearly she approves. I expect the word 'unexceptional' meant something different in Austen's day. Like, nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to set tongues wagging. Neither reaching too high nor stooping too low."
Light poured like milk over the porch. Several large winged insects hurled themselves against the screens, frantic to find it, follow it to the source. This resulted in a series of thumps, some of them loud enough to make Sahara growl.
"No animal passion," said Allegra.
Sahara turned. Animal passion. She had seen things in the kennels. Things that would make your hair stand on end.
"No passion at all." Prudie repeated the word, but pronouncing it as if it were French. Pah-see-ohn. Because she taught French, this wasn't as thoroughly obnoxious as it might have been.
Not that we liked it. The month before, Prudie's beautician had removed most of her eyebrows; it gave her a look of steady surprise. We couldn't wait for this to go away. "Sans passion, amour n'est rien," Prudie said.
"Après moi, le deluge," Bernadette answered, just so Prudie's words wouldn't fall into a silence that might be mistaken for chilly. Bernadette was really too kind sometimes.
Nothing smelly outside. Sahara came away from the screen door. She leaned into Jocelyn, sighing. Then she circled three times, sank, and rested her chin on the gamy toe of Jocelyn's shoe. She was relaxed but alert. Nothing would get to Jocelyn that didn't go through Sahara first.
"If I may." Grigg cleared his throat, held up his hand. "One thing I notice about Emma is that there's a sense of menace." He counted off on his fingers. He wore no ring. "The violent Gypsies. The unexplained pilferings. Jane Fairfax's boat accident. All Mr. Woodhouse's worries. There's a sense of threat hovering on the edges. Casting its shadow."
Prudie spoke quickly and decisively. "But Austen's whole point is that none of those things is real. There is no real threat."
"I'm afraid you've missed the whole point," said Allegra.
Grigg said nothing further. His eyelashes dropped to his cheeks, making his expression hard to read. It fell to Jocelyn as hostess to change the subject.
"I read once that the Emma plot, the humbling of a pretty, self-satisfied girl, is the most popular plot of all time. I think it was Robertson Davies who said so. That this was the one story everyone was bound to enjoy."
Excerpted from "The Jane Austen Book Club"
Copyright © 2005 Karen Joy Fowler.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"What strikes one first is the voice: robust, sly, witty, elegant, unexpected." — Margot Livesey,The New York Times Book Review
"A luxuriant pleasure!" —Alice Sebold
"Part character study, part social commentary, part literary puzzle, Book Club builds on Fowler's success as an author of highly creative fiction." —The New York Times Book Review
“Karen Joy Fowler creates a novel that is so winning, so touching, so delicately, slyly witty that admirers of Persuasion and Emma will simply sigh with happiness.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
“Start quoting a few of Fowler’s puckish lines and it becomes damnably difficult to stop. . . The Jane Austen Book Club amounts to a witty meditation on how the books we choose, choose us too.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The Jane Austen Book Club offers a sparkling rumination on the act of reading itself and how beloved books can serve as refuge, self-definition, snobbish barricades against other people or pathways out of the old self to a wider world. [It is] a terrific comic novel about a closed society merrily transforming itself by reading.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s All Things Considered
"[Fowler] does so terrific a job of bringing her characters to life that Austen’s work falls away like a husk. It’s an impressive feat of homage, since Fowler essentially borrows
Austen’s great themes…and makes them her own. Miss Austen would be proud.” —The Denver Post
Reading Group Guide
“Real people are really complicated,” says Jocelyn, the founder of the “Central Valley/River City all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club.” And the members of her newly founded book club certainly prove this to be true. Each has a story to tell, and much like an Austen novel, the intricate plots that are their own lives are slowly revealed. There’s Sylvia, Jocelyn’s friend of forty years, who is in the midst of a painful divorce. Her daughter, Allegra, beautiful, vivacious, a “creature of extremes” who finds her thrills through skydiving and rock-climbing but can’t seem to find love. There’s Bernadette, the oldest member at sixty-seven, a woman who has married well, several times at that, and even had a brush with fame, but currently looks disheveled and distracted. Prudie is the only member who’s currently married. She’s a high school French teacher and a great believer in organization, and finds comfort in her lists when life feels overwhelming. Grigg is in his early forties, yet his older sisters still feel protective of him, hoping to rescue him from the legacy of their father. And last, there’s Jocelyn. Never married, she has a keen interest in the happiness of others and is constantly playing matchmaker. In fact, this could be her underlying motivation for inviting Grigg, the only member of the group who’s never before read Austen. Or perhaps she thinks the book club will serve as a distraction for Sylvia. After all, who better to heal one’s pain than Jane Austen?
ABOUT KAREN JOY FOWLER
Karen Joy Fowler, A PEN/Faulkner and Dublin IMPAC nominee, is the author of Sarah Canary, The Sweetheart Season, Black Glass: Short Fictions, and Sister Noon.
- The author opens the novel with a quote from Jane Austen, part of which reads, “Seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure.” Do you agree with this sentiment? Why do you think the author chooses to open the novel with this quote? How might this statement apply to each of the characters in the book?
- When the group is first being formed, Bernadette suggests that it should consist exclusively of women: “The dynamic changes with men. They pontificate rather than communicate. They talk more than their share.” (page 3). What do you think of her statement? How does Grigg affect the group’s dynamic? How would things have been different without him?
- While the group is reading Sense and Sensibility and discussing Mrs. Dashwood, Sylvia mentions that “the problems of older women don’t interest most writers” (page 46) and is thrilled that Austen seems to care. Do you agree with this, that most writers aren’t interested in older women? What about society in general? How does Fowler approach older women? Later, Prudie says that “An older man can still fall in love. An older woman better not.” (page 47) Do you agree? How does Fowler deal with this issue?
- On page 228 Sylvia asks, “Why should unhappiness be so much more powerful than happiness?” How would you answer her? How does each character find her/his own happiness in the novel?
- The book club meets from March through August. How does the group change over these six months? “I always like to know how a story ends,” Bernadette says on page 199. How do you think this story ends (the “epilogue to the epilogue”)? Does Bernadette have a happy marriage with Senor Obando? Do Allegra and Corinne stay together? How about Jocelyn and Grigg? Daniel and Sylvia?
- At the end of the novel, Jocelyn reluctantly agrees to read some science fiction, including the work of Ursula Le Guin, and really likes it. What other authors do you think the group might like? Although they would have to change the name of their group, what author would you suggest for the Central Valley/River City all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club to read next? What do you suggest for your own group?
- If you’re new to Jane Austen, are you now interested in reading her work? Based on what you’ve learned from Karen Jay Fowler, which novel would you go to first? If you are already a “dedicated Janeite,” how has reading The Jane Austen Book Club made you feel about your favorite author? How would you describe your own “private Austen”? What novel would you recommend to first-time readers of Austen?
If you liked The Jane Austen Book Club, you might also want to check out our Austen-Mania page.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A group of 6 persons decide to read the novels of Jane Austen together and meet for discussion as a monthly book club. The book club is a framework for learning about each of the persons as individuals and their relationships - with fellow group members and others, both current and past. I found myself only mildly interested in the characters. The Austen discussion was merely a loose framework to learn about the characters which structure in itself wasn't necessarily bad. However, I didn't see that Austen's novels informed the characters' insight in very strong ways. I was distracted by the narrator who appears to be a member of the book club, but apparently wasn't. I finished the book but wasn't sure I would at several points and was relieved there were only 6 novels for the club to get through.
I found this really quite compelling and enjoyed it more than I would have expected. Don't tell the members of the Jane Austen book club, but I haven't read Ms. Austen's novels. But they have made me want to. One thing I found interesting was the shifting perspective of the narration. Often, it was the typical third-person limited point of view, with a chapter devoted to each of the six members of the book club, who schedules six meetings to discuss the six Austen novels. But occasionally collective narrator takes over, explaining how "we" the book club felt or thought. At fist, I thought this voice would be Jocelyn's, as she is the one who has put together the book club, but I'm quite it wasn't actually Jocelyn or any other member's voice, as the "we" voice gave thoughts about how it felt about each of the six members. So the "we" voice was never an all-inclusive "we" comprising the perspective of all six members of the club (as the voice was there to describe how "we" felt about one of the members of the club") but it may have reflected the perspective of the five members who weren't being commented on, so that it shifted to exclude a different member each time. In any case, it was an interesting voice. The characters were well drawn out and it was easy to remember who was who -- no one became interchangeable with each other. Each one had an interesting back story that was provided in their respective chapters.And there were a few uniting elements woven in to make this more than six loosely connected short stories, and give an overall cohesion to the story.
When I picked up The Jane Austen Book Club, I expected it to be pure, kitschy, romantic fluff.It wasn¿t. But I think I might have preferred it if it was.For one thing, romantic fluff generally doesn¿t include attempted rape in the first chapter. This is a profoundly disturbing scene, and I¿m thankful that I was speed-reading the book for school, because that seemed to lessen the impact of it somewhat. I know others who have put the book down after that section out of pure disgust. Were I in a different situation, I¿m sure I would have done the same.Unresolved sexual issues left over from childhood and adolescence seems to be the one thing the otherwise diverse members of the book club have in common. Okay, I guess I can kind of see how that might happen, but the whole think just smacks of pop psychology as far as I¿m concerned. I suppose in this post-Freudian age almost everybody has unresolved childhood issues, and pretty much everything should be interpreted as sexual. *sigh*I must admit that I really liked and connected to Grigg, the only male member of the book club, and not only because I myself was in a similar situation. (I read this book as part of a seminar entitled ¿Jane Austen and the Popular Imagination,¿ and was one of only two men in the class.) I think a lot of studious and/or nerdy guys could sympathize with his character; I certainly remember being made fun of when I was younger for being sensitive and bookish, as he was. Also, I found the discussion he leads on Northanger Abbey absolutely hilarious, especially when he admits that he read Udolpho, and many of the ladies disclose they didn¿t even know it was a real book!Overall, though, I really disliked this book, and for me this summary quote (from the epilogue) was the last straw: ¿We¿d let Austen into our lives, and now we were all either married or dating.¿ When I first read that, I did a double-take. No! The image of Auntie Jane as some sort of good fairy, who brings romantic fulfillment to people who read her novels, is truly banal. I deplore it.The Jane Austen Book Club proves that a book doesn¿t have to be fluff to be cheap and vulgar. Not recommended.
I found this story trite and was bored with this book. I don't even remember why I didn't like it; maybe it was just a visceral reaction. I wanted to like it. And I will admit it made me want to revisit Austen. But overall not an enjoyable read.
I absolutely hated this book. In my opinion, I wasted the $12 it cost and the few days it took to read it. I found all the characters to be superficial and unlikable; not to mention unbelievable. I also had the annoying feeling that the author was trying to force me to believe her characters were deep, meaningful, and of value. There were also too many characters and the book too short to develope any of them adequately. I would not wish this book on anyone.
I found this book to be a mid-level success for me--Fowler uses the works of Austen as a backdrop to propel the stories of her characters, only about half of which are compelling. Therefore, the time spent dissecting the lives of the other half of the characters' lives tends to drag and gets tedious. I did appreciate this book for the fact that it rekindled my interest in Jane Austen's novels (none of which can be read too many times).
I never had the urge to read any Jane Austen books even though one of my closest friends loves her beyond belief. I picked this book up because I recently saw five minutes of the movie and I never watch the movie before reading the book. I was eager to read to start reading so I could watch the movie but half-way through I realized the book wasn't going to get any better. I always finish a book no matter what I think I owe it to the author, characters, and to myself to finish what I start, but it was so hard. I found myself falling asleep while trying to finish it, which never happens if I am really into the book which proves my lack of interest. I will however watch the movie just because of the actors in it (Hugh Dancy, Marc Blucas, Mario Bello, and Emily Blunt) and hopefully it will keep my attention better than this book did. The POV switched so frequently from character to character that it was hard to keep up. There was a lot of backstories that were not exciting or captivating in the lease bit. In the end you have a six time divorcee that loves to talk way to much and makes me want to tune her out, a French teacher in an unhappy marriage, a dog lover that has never loved a man the way she loves her dogs, a lady facing divorce after her husband leaves her, her lesbian daughter (she was my favorite character of the book, unfortunately she didn't get as much time as I would like), and the only man of the group is a sci-fi lover who I think was only there to give a male perspective. They meet to discuss Jane Austen's books (which they do very little discussing, in my opinion) and tell their life stories, bond, and talk about relationships.