Katharine's Reviews > The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
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Mar 05, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: drama, austen
Read in November, 2007

I can’t decide how successful this novel actually was, in storytelling. On the one hand, I genuinely liked all the characters. On the other hand, a good two-thirds of the book is spent in telling backstory. As a way to describe character and motivation, it’s an interesting technique, and kept my attention despite all the narration. On the other hand, there’s very little real-time interaction between the characters. Although what interaction there is, plays out beautifully and believably, it’s also spread between the six main characters, like a series of interconnected vignettes or short stories, rather than a novel. I ended up feeling slightly dissatisfied with the all-too brief glimpses into six fascinating stories.

And, let’s face it. I couldn’t help wishing for more Jane Austen. As is, the book club is nothing more than a framing device, and although the novel concludes by asking “who but Jane could have changed us this way?” I didn’t quite believe in the Power of Jane myself. I mean I do, in real life, but there wasn’t much evidence of it here. A passing musing from the characters here and there, did not do enough to convince me that their lives were truly Changed by Jane, or even that any of them were real Janeites, since the things they talked about were pretty basic (“Oh my gosh, Emma is totally classist!”). The idea that each person’s impressions of Austen influence and intertwine with his or her own life, is a great theme, but could have been explored much more deeply.

I did, however, greatly enjoy the plot parallels with the JA novels, and the Janeite in-jokes and allusions sprinkled gently over the text, as if with a conspiratorial smile.

On the whole, I do recommend the book. It was a fun read, just not as satisfying as I had hoped for. But then, my expectations for anything with “Jane Austen” in the title are probably unreasonably high, so take this with a grain of salt if you wish.
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Effy In my review I went on about back story. I can't see this book to be anything but back story.


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