My mother picked me a copy of Fowler’s novel at the public library’s used book sale last fall. (I’ve given her a blanket instruction to purchase all Austen-related novels she comes across.) She called to tell me about it, and I told her that I had already read the book. It wasn’t till I returned home in December that I got the feeling that I hadn’t actually read Fowler’s book.
Now, having read it, I can say for sure that this was not a reread for me. I must have been confusing it with the movie, which I incidentally thought was much better than the original novel. The characters and their stores translated much easier to the screen than the pages of a novel for me.
The book’s premise isn’t about Austen so much as the interaction and reaction Fowler’s characters have to Austen’s novels. Over a six month period, five women ranging in ages and life experiences and one man get together to discuss Austen’s novels. All the women are rather unfulfilled with their lives, and they spend much of the book forming what my friend terms the “whiny women society”. The book club aspect of their discussions is quickly lost as they move from one book to the next, one month to the next.
At the end, though, Fowler provides a brief snippet of the reactions Austen’s family and friends as well as other authors had to her novels. I’m rather familiar with Mark Twain’s contempt for Austen, but I found her friends’ and family’s reactions (as recorded by Austen) to be the more interesting inclusion, particularly since her family seemed to favor Pride and Prejudice over her other novels. Their reactions to Emma surprised me most of all; I guess because I consider it to be a favorite on par with Pride and Prejudice.
- Fowler, Karen Joy. The Jane Austen Book Club. New York: Plume, 2005. Print. 288 pgs. ISBN: 9780452286535. Source: Purchased.