Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Review - The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Bookdepository / Amazon US / Amazon UK
Librarything / Goodreads
Rating: 4.5 stars
(a slightly vapid) Summary: Six Californians join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they meet, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her finely sighted eye for the frailties of human behavior and her finely tuned ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, 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.
Thoughts: There are few books I would call elegant - this is one of them.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by the constructed simplicity of The Jane Austen Book Club. I had seen the movie - which was perfectly enjoyable - and had taken a look at the chick-lit cover, and thought I would be in for a very light-hearted read.
While the book is not a tale of doom and destruction, it is far from simplistic. Joy Fowley manages to fit so much character and emotion into the small novel. We see the characters only at the book club meetings, where they discuss a particular Austen novel while the narrator discusses one of the characters from the book club. Joy Fowley revealed characters of such complexity, I was continually astounded. Although I did not love them all, they all became completely real to me.
The narrative style, however, kept the reader as a slightly detached observer. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this style. It allowed me to feel all the emotion without getting bogged down by a single character... kinda genius, actually.
Although tied together by Jane Austen's books, I was happy to find that you did not need to be an Austen conneisseur - I've only read Pride and Prejudice - to enjoy the club's discussions. So even if you are an Austen sceptic, you can enjoy this book!
Bottom line? This is a wonderful read that deserves a broad readership. Give it to everyone - including your dad. He might not admit it - but he'll enjoy every second of it!