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The Jane Austen Book Club

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This description may be from another edition of this product. 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

I Loved This Book

I see here that not everyone agrees with me, but I loved The Jane Austen Book Club. I thought it was cleverly written with wonderful characters and very, very witty. The premise is this: a loosely-connected group of acquaintences forms a book club to discuss Jane Austen's works. Each chapter of the novel focuses both on the Austen book at hand, and the life of the book club member hosting the meeting that month. With six members of the club--well, you are not going to be able to get into the nitty gritty of each member's life without a long, drawn-out magnum opus. Fowler instead chooses to focus on a few events in the various character's lives. They all know each other, so the various members pop up in the other chapters as well. The novel is narrated by all of the book club members, speaking as one voice, which Fowler uses to her advantage on many humorous occasions. Each character is wonderful, yet flawed. The novel is a comedy of manners in the modern sense. You will recognize parts of yourself and others you know in many of the characters. There is no true "plot" to this story, although the love lives of many of the members, while unresolved at the beginning of the novel, resolve themselves towards the end. The lack of plot doesn't matter, however, in this truly cleverly written, enjoyable, engaging novel. I think this one is a must for anyone who loves to read--you don't have to be an Austen fan to enjoy it. I for one think this novel deserves the hype, and believe me, I was pretty sceptical at first. Enjoy this one: it is a treasure.

"We" is "I"

When, on page 5 of this delightful, ironic homage to Jane Austen, the narrator lists the "six of us" -- the six members of "The Jane Austen Book Club" -- the reader should recognize that the narrator is herself one of those club members. Which one? The novel leaves us guessing, as we explore each member's point-of-view, personal experiences and individual response to Jane Austen. Karen Joy Fowler is not so pretentious or presumptious as to invade Austen's authorial territory. She does not attempt to imitate or reinvent the "master." Instead, she keeps it light, offering a modern romance of manners in which we learn a little, but not alot about each character and a little, but not alot about each Austen novel. (As one reviewer notes here, the plot summaries aren't offered until the end of the book -- that's no accident.) In short, this novel is an homage to Jane Austen that is both respectful and self-depreciating, loving and mirthful, joyous and rueful. Much like Austen herself, whose spirit is evoked rather than dragged onto the table in this very enjoyable book.Having presented the Jane Austen read and appreciated by each character, the narrator (who may be Jocelyn -- or could Ms. Austen herself be the silent, but observant, guest at the banquet?) closes with a series of quotations from Austen, each of which appears randomly in a fortune-telling ball, but is rejected if doesn't reflect the desires of the questioner. We end up with the quotation that the narrator prefers, but are left to wonder who has really had the last word, the reader, the narrator or Jane Austen. The answer is obviously: all three. The novel has no single meaning, and the reader no single interpretation; "The mere habit of learning to love is the thing." (Jane Austen , 1775-1817)

"Jane Austen all the time."

"The Jane Austen Book Club," by Karen Joy Fowler, is a delightful blend of the old and the new. With smooth and effortless style, the author relates how six people, one man and five women, come together to talk about Jane Austen's books. During the meetings of the book club, not only do the members explore Jane Austen's life and novels, but they also reveal a great deal about themselves. Jocelyn and Sylvia are in their early fifties and have been friends since they were eleven. Bernadette is sixty-seven and although she has made a career out of being married, she is currently single. Allegra, Sylvia's daughter, is a blunt and beautiful woman, with a quick wit and an acerbic tongue. Sylvia's husband, Daniel, has just asked for a divorce after over thirty years of marriage. She is still bewildered by the changes in her life. Prudie is the only happily married member of the club. She teaches French and has an irritating and pretentious habit of dropping French phrases into the conversation without translating them. Grigg is a man in his early forties who doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the book club, but he does provide a much-needed male perspective. Fowler is deliciously witty. She pokes fun at and deconstructs, among other things, book clubs, friendship, marriage, and Jane Austen. At the same time, Fowler brings her six protagonists into focus, giving us a peek into their childhoods and providing perspective on how they became who they are now. Jane Austen's books are worlds unto themselves. Austen cleverly and astutely examined the mores of her time, especially as they related to love and marriage. Fowler does the same. She reveals that each of her characters has suffered disappointments and harbors painful memories and secrets. None of them, however, has given up on life. The dialogue in this novel is hilarious and poignant. The author includes a summary of Austen's novels at the back, along with a droll, tongue-in-cheek "Reader's Guide" that is the essential element of all modern book clubs. In addition, Fowler adds a lengthy section in which she gives critics of Jane Austen their say. Whether or not you are a lover of Jane Austen or a member of a book club, you will find much to enjoy in this breezy and entertaining novel.

A funny, fabulous book

I've loved Karen Joy Fowler's books for years, and this newest is a wonderful, wonderful, blissfully happy and funny novel. My mother and I have been calling each other up on the phone to read our favorite sentences. I can't think of another writer where I've done that. One favorite bit: "Bernadette was our oldest member, just rounding the bend of sixty-seven. She'd recently announced that she was, officially, letting herself go. 'I just don't look in the mirror anymore,' she'd told us. 'I wish I'd thought of it years ago . . . .'Like a vampire,' she added, and when she put it that way, we wondered how it was that vampires always managed to look so dapper. It seemed that more of them should look like Bernadette."I'm a recovering member of a book club, and now wish desperately that I was in one again, so that I could talk about this book, and about Jane Austen. I'm also a former bookstore clerk, so I also have a final recommendation: if you like The Jane Austen Book Club, and want more Fowler, then go hunt down a copy of Fowler's The Sweetheart Season, which is about a women's baseball team at the end of WWII.Three cheers (and five stars) for The Jane Austen Book Club! Three cheers for Jane Austen! And three cheers for Karen Joy Fowler!

A Fun, Cleverly Crafted, Witty and Thoroughly Modern Tale

According to Jocelyn, it is "essential to reintroduce Austen into your life regularly...let her look around." This is exactly her aim when she launches the "all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club" and invites five of her friends and acquaintances to meet and discuss one of Austen's novels every month.Each of the members "has a private Austen," Karen Joy Fowler tells us in the opening line of THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. For Jocelyn, a compulsive matchmaker and organizer extraordinaire of other people's lives, Austen "wrote wonderful novels about love and courtship, but never married." Bernadette, the oldest member of the group, has lived a colorful sixty-seven years, including a brief foray into show business and several trips to the altar. Her private Austen is "a comic genius."Sylvia, Jocelyn's childhood friend, has recently separated from her husband of thirty-two years. Not being a happy ending person, Sylvia's Austen is more practical --- "a daughter, a sister, an aunt." For Sylvia's daughter Allegra --- a strikingly beautiful, self-described "garden-variety lesbian" --- Austen writes about "the impact of financial need on the intimate lives of women."Prudie, a high school French teacher afraid to visit France because it might not live up to her expectations, is the youngest member of the group at twenty-eight. Her Austen is the one "whose books changed every time you read them, so that one year they were all romances and the next, you suddenly noticed Austen's cool, ironic prose."As for Grigg, no one knows who his private Austen is. The only man in the group, he initially raises suspicion among the other members --- for being a man, for being a man in a Jane Austen book club, and for showing up at the first meeting with an obviously brand new collection of Austen's works.Chapter by chapter, Fowler uses a different Austen novel to illuminate each of her characters. As the months flow by, Jocelyn, Bernadette, Sylvia, Allegra, Prudie and Grigg each face their own changes and challenges. Life, death, marriage, love and friendship were subjects that made for great storytelling in Jane Austen's day ... and they still do, two hundred years later in twenty-first century California.It will make for a richer reading experience if you're familiar with Austen's novels, but don't despair if you're not; turn to the back of the book for a synopsis of each story. When you finish the last page of THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, you won't be able to resist the urge to more thoroughly acquaint (or reacquaint) yourself with EMMA, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, NORTHANGER ABBEY, MANSFIELD PARK and PERSUASION. You might even have a better appreciation for them having read this book first.In 1826, Sir Walter Scott said about the late Jane Austen, "That young lady had a talent for describing the involvement and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.... The exquisite touch which renders ordinary commonplace
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