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[221] The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler


Half of what Jane says is said ironically. Irony is a way of saying two things at once. The thing you’ve said and that opposite thing you’ve said at the same time.” [74]

In California’s Sacramento Valley, four women and a man from different walks of life join Jocelyn Morgan’s book club to discuss Jane Austen’s novels. In her early fifties, Jocelyn has never been married. That her parents had secretly got a divorce one summer while she was in Girl Scout camp might ruin the prospect of a happy ending in love. For 32 years, Jocelyn misses the man whom she handed to her best friend, Sylvia Sanchez, and becomes her husband.

She’d handed him over, but she’d never given him up. [37]

But rumors have it that Daniel has been having an affair with someone who is young enough to be his sister. To Sylvia’s comfort is her daughter Allegra, who feels things very deeply—she can be so sentimental that the one who seeks her consolation could end up consoling her. But she is having a row with her girlfriend, who writes up Allegra’s secret stories and sends off to magazines.

How could I have let myself forget that most marriages end in divorce? You don’t learn that in Austen. She always has a wedding or two at the end. [37]

Over the six mouths the Jane Austen book club meets, friendship builds, affairs begin, marriage and relationship tested among the best friends, a high school French teacher, a retired old lady, and shy computer techie—love happens and rekindles. Interspersed with their lives is the myopic vision of human frailties and foibles for which Austen has a keen eye. The echoes of Austen that resonate throughout the novel converge to a singular realization: taking a chance in life, in love, and in happiness. Irony sometimes can be the destiny.

It seems to me that you can marry someone you’re lucky to get or you can marry someone who’s lucky to get you . . . Wouldn’t it be better to spend your life with someone who thinks he’s lucky to be there? [102]

The Jane Austen Book Club exceeds my expectation of a chick lit and a comfort read. It’s a breath of fresh air to the dense prose of classics. Fowler wittily weaves Jane Austen’s works which are not prerequisites, into a present-day social comedy revolving people who have to take a chance on happiness at the crossroads of their lives. The feel-good ending that seems to stretch credulity is more than compensated by Fowler’s plausible portrayal of these real and complicated characters.

288 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

39 Responses

  1. I saw the movie version of this recently and thought it was kinda cute. Not usually the type of book I’d read but I’ll have to give it a crack.

  2. I was just going to ask if this was the book version of the movie. I guess so! It is nice to have a break from the serious stuff, sometimes!

  3. This was a fun, light audiobook, too!

  4. Great review. I wasn’t that taken with it, but I did like how Fowler weaved Austen into the narrative.

  5. I rarely watch movies, but this summer I needed a break from all the academic reading/writing and this movie was available for Instant Watch on Netflix. The movie totally exceeded my own expectations as well. I would like to read the book sometime to compare and contrast.

  6. If you saw the film, how did you think it compared with the book? I saw the film quite a while ago, and I didn’t love it, so I’ve never bothered to pick up the book. Probably not really fair, considering how much better most books are than their film adaptations…

  7. I enjoyed the movie much more than the book for some reason.

  8. I felt the same. The movie was much more lively and warm to me than the book, which to me fell a bit flat.

    I started so many book clubs after watching the movie thoguh, as well as drinking copious amounts of wine and wearing shawls. And I had my french-sophisticate dressing phase too!

  9. I read this book a looooong time ago, and thought it was pretty good. So I was always surprised to find that most people really don’t like this one at all. Maybe I need to re-read it one of these days to see if it’s as good as I remember… your review has made me feel that I’m not completely crazy for liking it, so thanks! 🙂

    And if you liked the book, then I would say the movie is actually a good one to watch too! I watched it with my husband (who never read the book, and obviously doesn’t really go in for those kinds of movies) and he didn’t half mind it either!

  10. I have always been a little afraid to read this in case its execution was poor. I hope I can pick up a copy and give it a try. Great review 🙂

  11. I’m so thrilled to see that you liked this one!! I love the movie but have yet to read the book. I will get right to it!!!

  12. Great review. I have both the book and the film, but must admit to having taken the shortcut and only seen the film. 🙂


  13. I’ve got to add this onto my wishlist!!

  14. I can’t wait to read this one! Have you seen the movie?

  15. I enjoyed the book more than the film, but then thats quite normal with me ha! I thought the premise was good and there were some great characters but on the odd occasion it seemed a little cliched, but then you need that now and again.

  16. Elena:
    I find the book very cute, filled with believable characters and “crises”.

  17. Sandy:
    Sure is! The book is heart-warming. Go for it!

  18. JoAnn:
    How come it never occurs to me that the audiobook would be just as fun? 🙂 I have to watch out next time. Last time I read The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society and later a friend told me the audiobook was great.

  19. Amy Reads Good Books:
    Yeah while the characters discuss the irony of love in Austen’s works, they are not immediately aware that the same irony of fate is reigning over them. It’s cute.

  20. Molly:
    You must have a very productive and academic summer. The movie would be a great alternative to the book; and that it will kill two birds with one stone. You will relax and have the advantage also to read a book.

  21. Jenny:
    I’m planning to watch the film soon. I’ll keep in mind to watch for the difference and see how faithful the movie is to the book. 🙂

  22. sagustocox:
    Your comment, which contrasts Jenny’s, pique me to watch the film. Does the film change the age the characters, who are more into their golden years in the book?

  23. Aimee:
    I’m not surprised that the film is more lively as book clubs (hopefully) are are about interaction. In the book, interactions between the book club members are also interspersed with flashbacks of their individual life. I’m looking forward to seeing the film. 🙂

  24. Steph:
    I like it alright when I was just halfway through it! Although it’s a bit cheesy and too “feel-good” for me, but I thought Fowler handles the plot quite well. I’m intrigued. 🙂

  25. lena:
    I’m surprised you thought the execution is poor. I find it alright, pretty smooth.

  26. Staci:
    Now I’m looking forward to watching the film. I think this is made for motion picture, although the book is a fun reading experience.

  27. Tiina:
    I apologize for being behind in comments and visiting new blogs. Yours is one of the new blogs I have meant to visit. 🙂

    Like Steph shares, I am glad I’m not the only one who likes the book. Now I’m looking forward to the film.

  28. Melody:
    Surprise! Surprise! I thought you would have read it ages ago! 🙂

  29. justicejenniferreads:
    Movie is on my Netflix queue. 🙂

  30. Simon:
    I haven’t seen the film but I enjoy Fowler’s execution of the book and the plot. I have to problem with the alternation between book club meetings and narratives of personal lives. They seem to establish a coherence alright.

  31. I saw the movie, and if the book is anything like it, I’m so gonna read it!

  32. I love the movie and after I read your review, I decided to read it. This is my first visit to your blog and it’s wonderful! Love it! I will come for more and if you don’t mind, will put your link into my blog.

  33. Nikola:
    Seems to me the book and the movie got their fair share of followers. I’ve enjoyed the book, and will see the movie. 🙂

  34. Eve:
    Thanks Eve. I’ll reciprocate the link. 🙂

  35. Hummm. I may have to read this. I was mildly amused by the movie. Maybe I’d like the book better — especially in audio.

  36. Beth F:
    Now audio is a great suggestion! I haven’t read but maybe I should consider the alternative?

  37. Matt: I just looked up the audio version at Audible. It doesn’t get a very high rating. I think I’ll see if the library has it. This looks like a “free” not a “buy”

  38. For as much as I love Austen, I’ve never read this one. I didn;t want to be disappointed. Thanks for the heads up.

  39. […] specific recommendation? A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan, Fixer Chao by Han Ong, The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (a TLC book tour book), and Valeria’s […]

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