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. The first time we met was at Jocelyn’s house.
Published: April 26th 2005, Plume (first published in 2004)
As the title suggests the book is about a book club, and not any book club, a Jane Austen read-a-long book club. We have six readers and six Austen’s novels, what a perfect match. There is Bernadette, a notorious bride in her sixties, her latest number being husband number six. Then we have Sylvia and her daughter Allegra. Sylvia is in her fifties and recently has separated from her husband of thirty years. Allegra is in her thirties and is a proud lesbian with a very distinctive opinion in the group. Next up is Jocelyn, Sylvia’s best friend since school. Jocelyn was the one who introduced Sylvia and he husband Daniel, actually he was Jocelyn’s boyfriend first. Jocelyn never married and buried herself in passion for dog breeding, she loves the Ridgebacks. And we have Prudie a high school teacher in her twenties. She teaches French, yet she never been to France. And last but definitely not the least there is Grigg, the only guy in the group who obviously has never read Austen, he comes to the first meeting with a collected works of Jane Austen.
So we have a book club, a Jane Austen book club, yet there is nearly no Jane Austen in the book. Each month we read one book and visit one of the characters at home. We start with Emma at Jocelyn’s. Fowler believes that each one of us has our own private Austen. For Jocelyn she is the matchmaker, like Jocelyn herself. Jocelyn would love to match up the whole world, from dogs to people. In the first chapter we do get to see an actual discussion about the book itself, but as the book progresses we see less and less of the actual book club, and more of the background stories of the characters.
Each chapter is kind of told from the point of view of the host of the monthly meeting, which is hella confusing. But the background stories get in the way of the story of the book club; we rarely see the group as a group. As the members of the book club come from different parts of the town and they all met at different stages of their lives I would like to see more of an interaction between them. We are introduced to so much plot, yet at the end I felt like I did not really know the characters, I knew about them but I did not know them. Do you know what I mean? Like I knew so much information about the characters and what happened to them in life but they are not my friends, which is kind of sad for me.
I must confess that I watched the movie The Jane Austen Book Club before even knowing that it is a book. And I love the movie, so when I found out that there is a book and it was written by Karen Joy Fowler, there was no excuse not to read it. This past year I read Fowler’s book We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and I was properly impressed, I did not see what was coming at all. But in this book I felt like Fowler was just like Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, exploring her writing style. It was mentioned in the book that Austen’s Northanger Abbey as a book about other books and that is what Fowler kind of did here. Wrote a book about other books, but yet she managed to never actually talk about the books. What I loved about the movie is the way that the books relate to the lives of the characters, it did prove that each one of us has an inner Jane Austen, something I was and still am missing in the book.
As someone who grew up on Austen’s stories I thought that I would love this book but in the end I was more sad than happy when reading it, but overall it was a decent read, if the book was not called the Jane Austen Book Club I might have enjoyed it more, going to it not expecting the book to talk about Jane Austen and then hearing only short snippets about the books. I do not want to sound hateful; I just did not enjoy the nook as much as I thought I would. That said I do have to admit that the background stories of each character were amazingly put together and if they stood alone as short stories, which they kind of do, they are a very nice and quick read.
And that is it for this review my chums, talk to you soon.