Sunday, May 01, 2005

Just read: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Yesterday I finished Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club, about the lives (and reading experiences) of the members of a book club convened to discuss Austen's novels. There are six members: Jocelyn, breeder of championship dogs; Sylvia, Jocelyn's lifelong best friend who was recently left by her husband of thirty-some years; Allegra, Sylvia's drama queen, lesbian daughter; Bernadette, a sixty-seven year old chatterbox with a penchant for getting married; Prudie, a high school French teacher who has never been to France; and Grigg, the lone male who also happens to be reading Austen for the first time (from a one-volume collected works, no less).

It's certainly an entertaining novel (and a fast read), but when I finished, I just thought: so what?

And I had one major complaint about The Jane Austen Book Club: I couldn't figure out who the hell was narrating. It's written mostly in the first person, but this I/we doesn't correspond to any of the "six of us" in the book club. Probably this won't bother most readers, but it drove me nuts -- just like a little paper cut that keeps smarting.

I did like, though, the compilation of quotes about reader response to Austen through the centuries, starting with her own observations of her relatives' reactions to her works.

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