TITLE: The Jane Austen Book Club
AUTHOR: Karen Joy Fowler
Set in California, this novel follows a group of six, (five women, and one man) who meet once a month to discuss a different Jane Austen book. Interwoven in their reading and thoughts on each classic title are their own individual lives and hardships.
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I was more than a little apprehensive to read this title. I had already watched, (and really enjoyed!) the film adaptation but, for me, watching and reading are two extremely different things and the thought of Jane Austen within any fictional literature left me wondering. Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors, and so, I was worried as to how Fowler would (for want of a better word) honour such a classic author and such classic works of literature. Nevertheless, intrigue got the better of me and I picked up the book to read at last. I’m happy to confirm that my worries were unfounded. I was drawn into the story immediately and found the book really difficult to put down!
The novel is set up in such a way that each chapter is dedicated to a different Jane Austen classic, (the current read for the book club). Juxtaposed with this, the spotlight falls upon the character which is hosting the club meeting that month and, as a result we get an insight into the life of each member both currently and pre book club. We get to see how their experiences have shaped them as readers and led to the thoughts and interpretations that they hold for Austen and her characters. I’m reluctant to call this a tribute to Austen because I’m not convinced that this is Fowler’s intention. Indeed, her characters and their individual stories are strong enough to stand in their own right. However, I certainly enjoyed reading differing interpretations of Austen’s novels, some thoughts were certainly raised regarding my own interpretations of her body of work.
It is not necessary to be familiar with Austen’s work in order to enjoy this book, (a synopsis for each title can be found towards the end of the book) but speaking for myself who has read, and enjoyed Jane Austen multiple times over many years I can confirm that a love for Austen’s work does not taint this novel.
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I particularly enjoyed the welcome surprise at the close of the book of the inclusion of responses to Jane Austen’s literature. Broken down into sections, each one a different book of hers, are critical responses and the thoughts of her friends and family. I love discussing literature and hearing the opinions of others, and so this was a wonderful added extra and really interesting to read.
Fowler’s marrying of the past and present left me further convinced of how timeless Austen’s work really is. Following my reading of The Jane Austen Book Club I feel like Fowler has herself achieved a novel that will stand the test of time. If you haven’t read this one already then I highly recommend it! It will certainly be a title that I find myself reading again. It’s a comfortable and easy read, perfect to settle down with at the end of long day.
Have you read The Jane Austen Book Club? If so, then what are your thoughts? If not, do you think you might?
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Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!
Until the next time…Jess x