Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Author: Karen Joy Fowler
ISBN # CN132199
Publisher: QPD
1st Published: 2004
288 pages

When a group of six completely different people come together to read the books of Jane Austen, they find that each one has, as well as their own favourite book, their own Jane. As they read together, they grow together, & as their lives entwine through their love of Austen, they learn more about each other – & themselves. Through it all, loves are lost & found, intriguing secrets from the past revealed, & much discussion about a certain author & her books…

I’ve never read any Jane Austen. There, I’ve said it. I’m an Austen virgin! I saw the movie of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow (& also Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone) & was never inspired to take up the book. Now, however, having seen them through this book, I think I may well be forced to join the ranks of Austen-lovers the world over (I’ve already downloaded 3 of the 6 novels for future reading!). It’s always nice to find yourself hankering after another book because of reading one.

I could see quite clearly that one of the characters, Jocelyn, is the “Emma” of the group & suspect that those who have read Austen’s novels will see other folks from her world in this story (as it is, I took the test on Karen Fowler’s official site & turned out to be Grigg – the only man in the group & a sci-fi reader, so I guess it’s pretty much spot on – apart from me not being a man!).

Each chapter is another month with another book, seen through the eyes of the hosting group member & from this, I suppose, Austen readers would gather far more knowledge of these characters than I did, but still, I could see something of it for myself. Each month we learn a little more about them as they reveal more of themselves to each other (although I was never sure who the “narrator” was at any point – it was almost as if there was an invisible 7th member revealing the inner thoughts of the others).

It’s a delightful read, even if you know absolutely nothing about Jane Austen & her books, probably a whole lot more to recommend it if you have. Either way, once you’ve read this, I think you’ll want to go on & read the novels (I think I’ll be starting with Emma), whether they’re old favourites or something completely new to you. It’s one of those books that you pick up & then, when you finally put it down again, you find that you’ve sped through most of it & want to slow down, to hold off the end a while so you can enjoy it for longer. An incredibly easy read with insights to both books & the people that read them.

Rating: 7


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