The Jane Austen Book Club
by Karen Joy Fowler
I picked this book from my TBR because I suspected it would be light and fluffy and that was all I felt capable of reading this past week. It was exactly right.
I should say upfront that I am not a big Jane Austen fan, and have not read all her works, and that didn’t impede my enjoyment of this book. In fact, it gently mocks those characters who are major Austen fans – then again, it gently mocks all its characters. I have read four of Austen’s six novels, but if you were to come to this as a complete Austen newbie, Fowler includes synopses and select quotes from literary critics at the end of the book.
The format is that each chapter is based around a meeting of the book club – so it’s a new month, a new book and a new setting (the club’s six members take it in turn to host). As is perhaps predictable, the earlier chapters contain more earnest dissections of Austen’s work, while later on it is the club members’ lives that are being analysed, for the most part.
They’re a disparate group to begin with. The club is started by Jocelyn, a middle-aged dog breeder who is worried about how her childhood friend Sylvia is handling the break-up of her marriage, so she decides this will be a useful distraction. I’m not sure that Austen’s concentration on love and marriage is actually the best distraction for Sylvia, which of course tells us something about Jocelyn.