The Jane Austen Book Club

I wanted to see this movie that came out in the late fall. With life’s many commitments, I never fit it into my schedule. When I saw the preview, I guessed I would like the film but wouldn’t just love it.

One day in November, I was wandering through Goodwill, and I stopped to peruse the books. I came across the book on which the movie was based. I bought it for 70 cents, and I was able to read it over the Christmas holiday.

The premise is no surprise. The book is about a group of five women and one man who read several Jane Austen novels together and meet monthly to discuss them. It follows the group chronologically over the period in which the group meets. Each chapter deals with parallels between the Austen novel being discussed and the lives of the book group characters. It is truly a character driven story, but there is enough plot line to pull the reader along.

The matriarchs of the group are Jocelyn and Sylvia. They were high school friends who became lifelong friends. Jocelyn is single and a dog breeder. Allegra is the daughter of Sylvia. She is struggling with her personal relationships, and she has moved back home with her mother who has just separated from her father. Bernadette is retired and older than Jocelyn and Sylvia, but she is more like the eccentric aunt than a matriarch. She has been married several times has lived in many places. Her comments on Jane Austen always lead to a monologue about something from her own eclectic history. Prudie is a high school French teacher–probably in her mid-to-late-thirties. She questions the status of her love for her very loyal and stand-up husband when she thinks of Jane Austen. The last group member is Brigg, the only male in the group. He was invited to join the discussion by Jocelyn, whom he met at a science fiction convention that was meeting in the same hotel as one of her dog breeding meetings. Brigg is suspect from the beginning because he is a man and he had never read Jane Austen in the past.

There’s really not a lot of discussion about the Jane Austen novels. There are opinions given here and there, but no comments are really substantial. This book is truly a commentary on how readers relate the details of their own lives to Austen’s novels. It shows the timelessness of Jane Austen. I think is reflects how most book discussion groups actually happen. A group meets to discuss a novel, but they end up talking about how the novel speaks to their own situation. They end up getting to know each other. This book shows that the rise in popularity of the book group is reflective of a need for people to build relationships–to be a part of a group.

I enjoyed this book enough that I plan to check out some other fiction by Karen Joy Fowler. I also still plan to see the movie, but I guess it will be on DVD. Maybe I’ll have to invite a group over to watch it with me!

5 thoughts on “The Jane Austen Book Club”

  1. Ooh! I’m so glad to have a friend read and review this for me! I had seen the previews and, like you, was curious about the book. I may have to check it out sometime after I make it through my pile of Christmas books. (There’s some Leithart in there, so it may take a while, LOL.)

    On a related note, imagine my surprise to discover, in the nick of time, that Masterpiece Theater this week was part one of Jane Eyre! I was so excited! Young Jane was played by the little girl who plays Lucy in the Narnia movies. It was pretty good, actually – Phil even got hooked! We’re both eager for next Sun to roll around so we can see the conclusion! (The only other version I’ve seen is the one with Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester – good, but pretty typical BBC stuff. This version is more cinematic.)

  2. Jennifer,
    I should also warn that Allegra is a lesbian. I hesitated to put this in my original post as i didn’t want any negative comments from someone who googles something that leads them to my post. Hopefully, buried in the comments, it won’t be found.

    Thanks for the tip on the Jane Eyre movie. I shopped at a thrift store last week and bought Evangeline a copy of the abridged Jane Eyre, and the clerk told me she was watching it on PBS. I assumed it was the old one, but I am guessing it is the same one you were watching.

  3. I think one of life’s special pleasures is having an enjoyable book (preferably fiction) to read while on a trip! Glad you found this one in time.

  4. Evangeline tries to read many chapter books. She doesn’t finish nearly as many as she starts. So this version of Anne is much shorter than the full version, and it has pictures. I looked on Amazon, but this is old enough that they don’t have it.

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