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The Jane Austen Book Club [Paperback]

Karen Joy Fowler
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
We sat in a circle on Jocelyn's screened porch at dusk, drinking cold sun tea, surrounded by the smell of her twelve acres of fresh-mowed California grass. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It's always risky... Feb. 27 2009
By Schmadrian TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback read the novel before seeing the film adaptation. Because usually, the comparison does the movie no favours. However, as I've learned here, sometimes there's a greater risk to seeing the film first.

As much as this is meant to be a review of the novel, the truth is that having seen the film, my view of the book is informed in so very starkly a way that I fear I cannot offer up as objective opinion as I otherwise might have.

As a screenwriter/novelist, I'm always fascinated to see how the migration from one medium to the other is achieved, and to what extent it's successful. In the case of 'The Jane Austen Book Club', one thing was consistently apparent: the adaptation succeeded marvellously. In fact, in many ways, the film is a far more satisfying experience.

But allow me to clarify.

Firstly, I have no history, no relationship with Austen's novels. I've read not a one. So clearly, what Fowler waves through her story Austen-wise, was lost on me. Not that I couldn't appreciate that she was clearly a lover of Austen's works and had fashioned a tale as an homage to the writer. I'm sure that a fan of Austen's books would have added many a satisfaction-point onto their final score. But I suppose what struck me most in this sense was the fact that the movie seemed to do a far better job of utilizing the themes and characters than the novel does.

Secondly, while the film is focused, the novel is...well, a lot more of a riff. And perhaps this can be chalked up mostly to the narrator's voice. In the film, it's a typical 'third-person omniscient'. In the book- Well, I still can't figure out why Fowler decided to tell it in first-person omniscient...and then, never really declare that it's being told by Bernadette.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Jane Austen WASP club July 18 2004
I've had some extra time this summer to catch up on some reading. I've even been able to explore some of the newer books that are out and with all the reviews I've read here and the ads that are blarin all over the place, surely, I thought this would be a good one. Maybe I'm not exactly up on Austen--I realize this could be the problem--but the story and its characters didn't fulfill. I liked "The Secret Life of Bees" (and that is a bit corny) better only because, at least, the writer aimed to entertain and to give us a story and a bit of the "brown suger". Sorry, but this book pales (pun not intended) next to "Simon Lazarus". It's a totally different book from this, true, but readers will be delighted, fulfilled, and yes, perhaps, enlightened. Now THAT book's a winner. And deserves so much more praise than this--I'm sorry. And as far as that WASP, Alice Sebold--she can eat this all she wants--honey, I read that very WHITE chick's book and after the first 125 pages (which were actually good!)--it was all downhill in a Presbyterian handbasket!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable for Austen Fans but... July 13 2004
I have to admit: I enjoyed this book tremendously and I went back and reread favorite sections. However, I am a Jane Austen devotee and I am always interested in the opinion of others on her various books.
And you get a number of opinions in "The Jane Austen Book Club." Six Californians get together to read all six Austen novels. With five women and one semi-hunky man, complications are bound to ensue. And they do...though not necessarily in the way the reader might think originally. The six characters are all interesting and their stories are told in part. In many ways, it reminded me of being in a book club: you see one side of an individual, and not necessarily the side that the rest of the world sees.
I would recommend this book to Jane Austen fans. Fowler inserts all sorts of opinions on various texts. My favorite moment occurs when Fowler's book club members debate the sexuality of one of Austen's characters and wonder if Austen realized that she had created a gay character!
However, if you are not a Jane Austen fan or have not read much of her work, I believe that this would be a tough read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "We" is "I" July 10 2004
By rctnyc
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)
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like the movie
As a fan of Jane Austen I wanted to read that book out of curiosity. I was surprised at my liking. This is one of my favorite contemporary novels. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars You Will Love It
I am a big fan of this book. So if you are looking for a negative review, you can stop reading now. "Jane Austen Book Club" is artistic and creative, one of the best... Read more
Published on May 9 2005 by Derek Leonardi
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not actually ABOUT Jane Austen, folks
Anything with an unusual premise grabs my attention--you know, something that not only has a good idea going for it but a great author to carry thought with the exectution? Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2005 by Terrence Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
While seemingly simple on the surface, THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB is not. Five women and one man make up the main characters in this riveting and cleverly plotted gem. Read more
Published on July 24 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Warning to Jane Austen fans
Published on July 19 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't Waste Your Time
This may well have been the worst book I ever read. The premise is interesting, and it could have been a great book, but Fowler's writing style is obnoxious. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Alice Sebold got it right
Alice Sebold states that if she could "eat this book," she would. I found the concept of the book, the manner in which it was told (snapshots of characters' pasts that... Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by Kathleen Davis
4.0 out of 5 stars A recommendation
My sister-in-law recently recommended two books and I found both to be superb novels. The first was a book by the title "The Bark of the Dogwood" (funny, horrifying, and... Read more
Published on July 8 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time
If you want to read Austen buy Pride and Prejudice not this book. TJABC is long on slapstick and short on things Austen. It pales in comparison to Austen's razor wit.
Published on July 7 2004 by Kimberly Gardner
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