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The Use of "We"

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message 1: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephanie What did you think of the narrator's use of "we" all the time?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finishe reading "The Jane Austen Book Club" and actually referred to this in my review. Then I stumbled on this question, so let me share once more....

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What bugged me a bit was the constant use of "we". It gave the feeling of an invisible book club member, because obviously it was none of the others speaking. This was probably to give the reader the feeling of being included in the circle, but it didn't work for me.
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message 3: by Ada (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ada was much too annoyed by the book to post a comment, but yes... the "we" really bugged.


message 4: by Amy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amy I wondered about the "we" thing, too. It was kind of distracting. But did you notice that Bernadette's flashbacks were in first person?


message 5: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephanie I wondered if the "we" was actually to make the reader feel excluded (vs. included).

Re: Amy's post about Bernadette's story -- I didn't notice! I don't have the book here anymore...was it maybe because she was telling her story to everyone at the fundraising event? (Her talking to her friends, vs. narrator speaking to us?)


message 6: by Casey (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Casey I mentioned that in my review, too: "What really got to me what the unnamed first person narrator. It bugged the heck out of me."

The narrator was a character but not a character. She participated in the club, but I can't seem to remember any of the characters interacting with her. I thought it was a pretty dull affectation.


Claire Weren't Bernadette's flashbacks in first person because she was the only character to share them out loud? Everyone else's were told to us from the omniscient narrator.


Dini What stands out to me is the fact that the "we" never seemed to include Grigg. Just because he's a man?


Sarah Maybe knowing that it had been made into a film biased me but I kept thinking that it was written more as a movie pitch/script/storyboard than a novel. The narrator isn't actually part of the story at all but is the movie viewer ......?? I guess that is why the narrator is so passive and external to the story.


James I thought it was an interesting technique that worked well for the novel. I believe Austen herself used the trick in one of her novels...not sure though. Have to rummage through and find out. Anyone know off hand? The "we" allowed a lot of movement to tell the story. You can also see the narrator's voice become subjective whenever "it" was telling a character's story. Also while "it" was in group, "it" would dip in and out of minds pretty deftly. Good call on that the "we" excluding Grigg when in group. I think it includes him though during the Northanger chapter...he is supposed to be a heroine after all.


message 11: by Ann (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ann Was Jane Austen supposed to be the honorary book club member? Is this how Ms Fowler imagined a present day Ms Austen would narrate?


message 12: by Robin (last edited Nov 19, 2008 09:37AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Robin I'm glad to find that so many other people have an issue with the narrator in this book! It wouldn't have been nearly as bad if Bernadette's story hadn't been written in the first person - the narrator's voice is NOT the same as the voice of Bernadette in other parts of the story, but it's written in exactly the same tone during B's section.
I don't think the use of an external narrator is a literary technique by the author, I think it's a sign of incredible poor writing.


Shane I kept expecting the narrator would turn out to be the cat featured on the cover, so that was disappointing. At any rate, I've come to the conclusion or confusion that the narrator is the book club itself, rather than any one individual, if that makes sense (and sensibilities)?


Ericka Scott Nelson The "we" worked for me. I believe it was a sort of shifting first person plural, so who exactly the "we" is changes...basically, if that character is being discussed, s/he is not part of the "we". I don't believe there's an unnamed mystery member. The perspective simply changes. It allows the book club as a whole (but yes, not so much Grigg) to respond to and evaluate the person being discussed.


Marcy I read this book qute some time ago. I don't even remember the "We." I must not have noticed or I would. I'm not surprised--now that I'm re-reading books, I realize I have no idea what I am reading the first time around!


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

The "we" use of viewpoint (a kind of first-person collective) isn't used very well - it would have been better if she'd just done it in a normal third-person. If you're interested in reading a book that uses the "we" viewpoint very successfully, try "After Dark" by Haruki Murakami.


Haley I'm late to this discussion, but I just started reading the book today. My opinion on the "we" topic is that, maybe it's supposed to be Jane Austen sort of looking in? Though, the whole thing is sort of bugging me that there isn't a clear answer to this question and such, but it is a good point for discussion if you're using it in your own book club, I suppose.


Rokcie Roxcita Shane wrote: "I kept expecting the narrator would turn out to be the cat featured on the cover, so that was disappointing. At any rate, I've come to the conclusion or confusion that the narrator is the book club..."

I like your idea better that may be the narrator was the book itself. I am still reading the book but i was so confused as to who the narrator is I had to come online and see if anyone had any idea.
Do you think it was a mistake for the writer to use this technique? Is it even a technique?


Ericka Scott Nelson I don't think it was a mistake. The "we" is the book club, speaking collectively, but excluding whichever book club member the chapter is focusing on. For example, this quote comes from Grigg's chapter: "Our opinion of the Gramercy edition of the novels sank even further" (138-139). They're discussing the novel and they don't approve of the edition Grigg has...this would be the actual characters making the observation, not Jane Austen or the book itself. They actually mention their scorn of the Gramercy edition and its obvious newness early in the book. Anyway, I think it's a great narrative technique because it allows all the six book club members to be a main character, each in their own turn as their chapter comes around. It also emphasizes how they come to be even more interconnected as the book progresses, none really arising above the others as a main character with greater prominence.


Rokcie Roxcita Ericka wrote: "I don't think it was a mistake. The "we" is the book club, speaking collectively, but excluding whichever book club member the chapter is focusing on. For example, this quote comes from Grigg's cha..."

Makes more sense


message 21: by Gerd (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gerd Rokcie wrote: "Shane wrote: "I kept expecting the narrator would turn out to be the cat featured on the cover, so that was disappointing. At any rate, I've come to the conclusion or confusion that the narrator is..."

I'm pretty sure that Jocelyn is the narrator.


message 22: by Caroline (last edited Aug 04, 2019 10:53AM) (new)

Caroline But why should she then say things like "Jocelyn said"? Speaking of herself in the third person?
I found the "we" in this novel confusing, then annoying, as it was never clear who was speaking. Or maybe (as others have mentioned) this was indeed a kind of narrative technique to include us as readers, or let the bookclub itself speak (as a 'character').
First I thought that each character in the novel would have his/her turn in telling the story, but then it seemed that, no matter who was speaking, everyone was mentioned in the third person (not as an "I" or "we" then).


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