The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler


General Fiction

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler The Jane Austen Book ClubKaren Joy Fowler; Plume 2007WorldCat

Two hundred years ago Jane Austen became a famous author in England. Today she is still read and loved around the world. Six people in mid-California decide to read her books now and discuss them. This book club is only for Austen’s work. There are six members (Jocelyn and five other people she chooses) and six books. They are to each pick a favorite then host an evening to discuss that books.

Jocelyn is older, single, and happy with her life. She raises and shows dogs. Sylvia and Jocelyn have been friends since they were in their young teens. Sylvia is married to her high school sweetheart (who dated Jocelyn first) but they are now separated. Daniel found another woman and left Sylvia. Allegra is Sylvia and Daniel’s gay daughter. They don’t know she is also a dare devil as well as an artisian. Jocelyn met Grigg when he was attending a science fiction convention at the same hotel she was at for a dog show. When he moved to her area he contacted her because he didn’t know anybody. He’s been trying to get Jocelyn to read some Ursula LeGuin, but Jocelyn doesn’t like science fiction. Bernadette is the oldest of the group. She’s been friends with Sylvia and Jocelyn for years and has recently decided she doesn’t need to look in mirrors any more. Prudie is the youngest member of the book club. She is a French high school teacher.She is also the only one of the group who is married.

Each one views Jane Austen and her work from a different aspect. They have some interesting conversations at their meetings.The first book read and discussed is Emma and the last is Persuasion.

But The Jane Austen Book Club is about more than the book club and an examination of the famous author. It is also the story of these people’s lives. Each person comes in to the club with personal issues whether it be Sylvia’s separation after more than 30 years of marriage, Bernadette’s strange appearance and behavior, or Prudie’s dissatisfaction with life. Karen Joy Fowler looks at each of these people long enough for the reader to get a feel for them, then moves on to the next. Many of their qualities are reflected in Austen’s work. For example, like Emma, Jocelyn is an unashamed matchmaker.

My biggest problem with The Jane Austen Book Club is that the characters aren’t filled out enough. We know that Prudie is dissatisfied, but never get a good sense of why. Of course that dissatisfaction is set aside when her mother falls ill. Emergencies like that help a person find her focus. The bonds between the women grow stronger and even Grigg is accepted and included. Grigg and Bernadette also stay more shadowy. even though their stories intersect, Jocelyn’s and Sylvia’s is the strongest storyline in the book.

Yes, I liked The Jane Austen Book Club. It certainly makes me want to read the two I haven’t yet, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

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