Friday, May 7, 2010

The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler

Rating : 8/10

Reading this book is like treating yourself to a luxurious dinner - it's loads of fun and you will enjoy every minute of it. Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club is a must-read for Austen fans because of its own witty look at society a la Austen and more importantly, it's tribute to Austen and her books in the form of enjoyable discussions.

I watched the movie version about a year ago and loved it and meant to read the book. I was a little nervous that I might not like the book since I pretty much knew how the story would pan out. But this book is more than just another Austen-related book that tries to remodel her novels or makes references to Austenian culture. This is a well-written story chronicling the lives of Prudie, Jocelyn, Allegra, Bernadette, Sylvia and Grigg and their Jane Austen Book Club that impacts their lives more than they realize.

The plot isn't marvellous, but the characters are interesting and it's fun to see such different people united by Austen. I loved the fact that the discussion about the books were full of varied opinions on Austen, her books, her life. I could relate to one point or the other made while analyzing Austen's books, which made this book a pleasure to read. Speaking of relating myself to something a character says in this book, this is so scarily similar to what I do:

‘Everywhere Prudie looked she saw the signs of wealth. She tried for the fun of it to view the scenes as a Jane Austen character would. A young woman with no money and no prospects, here, in the way of all these rich men. Would she feel determined? Would she feel desperate? Would there be any point in looking about, making a secret selection, when you could only sit and wait for someone to come to you?"

This book is a fast-read and Fowler writes with exquisite ease and has quite the talent of making incisive, witty, funny, sarcastic observations on society. Even those who haven't read Austen will enjoy the book, if not for the fact that there are Austen novel spoilers in this book, though that is understandable. Fowler is a very quotable author as well. Sample this:

"All the while it’s Austen writing the really dangerous books” Allegra continued. “Books that people really do believe, even hundreds of years later. How virtue will be recognized and rewarded. How love will prevail. How life is a romance.”

Another aspect of the book that I loved was that there are no forced inclusion of Austen-related things. For instance, the mandatory squeeing over Mr. Darcy is very limited and there's not a single reference to Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen! Instead, there are some very creative Austen-related concepts, like the idea of everyone's 'private Austen'.

My private Austen is a sort of confidante whose books I turn to in all moods. There's something in her books that I enjoy when I'm happy or sad or irate and The Jane Austen Book Club is a book that captures this essence of Austen's impact on our lives. The additional pages in the book explaining Austen's novels and containing a collection of the response of Austen's family members, famous writers and critics are a treasure for the devoted Austen-fan like me. Unwind and have fun reading this one!


JoAnn said...

This was great as an audio - I listened to it on a long car trip several years ago. Think I've seen the movie at least a couple of times, too!

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

I tried to read this book, but it was during the Everything Austen challenge, and was Austened out. I'll have to give it another try-it sounds great.

Kim said...

I enjoyed the movie, but haven't read the book. If there is a movie from a book, I typically like to read it first before seeing the movie. I'm glad you liked the book, too.

The Book Mole said...

I watched the movie a few years ago, and really enjoyed it - good casting and acting. If the book is a fast read, I will probably try it. Thanks for the review.

JaneGS said...

Great review--I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and got to hear the author talk about the book a few years ago. Like you, one of the most enjoyable aspects was that the lack of "forced inclusion" of Austen stuff--you could read into it what you saw and enjoy the premise for what it was...people who love Austen chatting about what she means to them as they live their lives.

Whitney said...

What?! No mention of Colin Firth? That's inconceivable! It's still a great review though.

Kals said...

JoAnn - It must have been a good read during a long car trip :) Light and fun! The movie is great too. I love it.

Colette - It's worth another try and I hope you'll enjoy it this time :)

Kim - Ah..I usually do that too. But I saw the movie a year before I found the book. But I still loved the book :)

The Book Mole - Totally agree. The actors were fabulous and they were aptly cast for their roles.I hope you like the book when you read it!

JaneGS - Thanks! :)I would have loved to meet Karen Joy Fowler too. I think she has a remarkably good style of writing. And you sum it up rightly. I loved how natural the Austen-related discussions were :)

Whitney - Thanks. LOL..I was surprised by lack of Colin Firth references since most Austen-related contemporary books have it. But it works well in this case :)

Meredith said...

Thanks for the awesome review, Kals! I too have only seen the movie and not read the book. I'm glad the book was enjoyable, sounds like something fun to read over the summer!

Booksnyc said...

Thanks for the review - I have this on the shelf and am happy to hear it was so enjoyable for you!

Vaishnavi said...

I have been looking for a review for this one! I loved the movie absolutely and watch it when I need a little pick-me-up. This book is absolutely going on my list :) Thanks for the lovely review :)

Kals said...

Meredith - Thanks! It's an ideal summer-read indeed. Have fun :)

Booksync - Thanks! Hope you like it as much as I did :)

Vaishnavi - Thank you. I agree entirely! The movie is an excellent feel-good film for an Austen-fan and the book is equally good :)

Whitney said...

Heading over to the library to check this out. I also have an award for you Kals :)

Kals said...

Thank you so much Whitney! :)

Tracy said...

I much preferred the movie to the book (which is unusual) - partly because the author chickened out of discussing my favourite Austen novel, Mansfield Park - it was alluded to with Prudie watching the musical rehearsals, but it wasn't discussed at all (in the book it was supposed to be Prudie's book to discuss, but some kind of emergency cropped up, so she cancelled it). And I much preferred how the movie ends, to how the book ends. The movie is fun, and much better than the critics reviews would have you believe.


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