I am sometimes rather contrary about bestsellers. I assume that I’m not going to like them and avoid reading them. This attitude isn’t entirely irrational as I am familiar with the writing of many consistently bestselling authors that I do not like at all. The idea behind The Jane Austen Book Club also seemed like something I wouldn’t enjoy, as I am a little tired of all the Jane Austen spin-offs and other hoopla (although never tired of Austen herself). So, it wasn’t until I picked up the book at a used book sale that I decided to try it.
I found the novel extremely light reading but enjoyable and sometimes witty. Of course, it is about a book club of Austen lovers who get together to read all of Austen. Only one member is male, and Grigg is also the only one who has never read Austen.
The novel does not have much of a plot. There are some romances and a banquet. That’s about it. As in Austen novels, it is more about the characters and their relationships.
Jocelyn, the founder of the club, is a dog breeder in her 50’s who likes to arrange things and make matches. Sylvia is her best friend from high school whose husband Daniel recently left her for a younger woman. Allegra is a strong, adventurous lesbian. She isn’t so much an Austen fan but is in the club because she’s Sylvia’s daughter. Bernadette, a kind older woman with a colorful past, talks a lot and repeats herself. Prudie, the married French teacher, annoys everyone by speaking French during the club meetings. Grigg is a little more of an enigma, a science fiction reader in his 40’s who just moved to town.
Each section of the novel focuses on a book club meeting and tells us more about the character who hosts the meeting. Throughout the novel, quotes from Austen and other sources appear appropriately, or maybe with an angle we need to figure out. Strikingly, the novel is narrated in the second person plural, apparently by the entire book club, and in omniscient viewpoint.
I found myself liking the characters and drawn into their dramas. Early on, we feel Grigg is interested in one of the women, but I don’t think we’re supposed to guess which one. I thought it was obvious.
If you are looking for some light, amusing reading with just a hint of romance, you may enjoy this novel. I did.