Day 537: The Jane Austen Book Club

Cover for The Jane Austen Book ClubI 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.


10 thoughts on “Day 537: The Jane Austen Book Club

  1. Cecilia June 13, 2014 / 11:59 am

    Glad this one was better than you expected! I’ll keep it in mind. First I need to re-read Jane Austen herself (it’s been a long time).

    • whatmeread June 13, 2014 / 12:28 pm

      I don’t think you need to re-read Austen to like this one. Well, maybe brush up on the plots.

  2. Naomi June 13, 2014 / 12:35 pm

    I remember really enjoying this book. My Mom bought it for me right after I had my third baby, and it was perfect reading while I nursed! Have you seen the movie? Not as good as the book, of course.

    • whatmeread June 13, 2014 / 12:35 pm

      I haven’t seen it, but after I read the book, I put it on my Netflix list.

  3. Alina (literaryvittles) June 13, 2014 / 12:54 pm

    I read this a while ago and didn’t think much of it. But you’re right, there’s nothing “wrong” with it. It is light and sometimes amusing, as you said.

    • whatmeread June 13, 2014 / 12:57 pm

      I liked her most recent book better, it’s true. I think it’s the most recent: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

  4. Lady @The Snail on the Wall June 14, 2014 / 10:02 am

    I recently finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, too—her most recent book—and I loved it. I haven’t ever read The Jane Austen Book Club, but the new one seems like a complete departure.

    • whatmeread June 16, 2014 / 7:31 am

      Yes, it is much deeper and more affecting.

  5. Ngan R. June 14, 2014 / 8:41 pm

    I haven’t read this book, but saw the movie years ago. I really would not recommend the movie as it is quite dull. I enjoyed Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and think she has a great writing style. Perhaps I will have to give reading this book a try!

    • whatmeread June 16, 2014 / 7:31 am

      OK, maybe I’ll take the movie OFF my Netflix list!

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