The Jane Austen Book Club Paperback – 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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)
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished 17 months ago by bookworm
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 morePublished on May 9 2005 by Derek Leonardi
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 morePublished on Jan. 10 2005 by Terrence Braithwaite
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 morePublished on July 24 2004
WARNING TO ALL JANE AUSTEN FANS! WARNING TO ALL JANE AUSTEN FANS! DO NOT--I REPEAT--DO NOT BUY THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. It is a ruse. Read morePublished on July 19 2004
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 morePublished on July 18 2004 by Avid Reader
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 morePublished on July 13 2004 by Kathleen Davis
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 morePublished on July 8 2004