Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Six members in a book club read the six novels of Jane Austen

This book was delightful to read and worked on many levels. On the surface, it appears to be about a bunch of loveless literary types in Sacramento, clearly Democrats and very politically correct, and their fumblings after romance, but it’s also about how the meanings and themes of the Austen novels bounce off the meanings and themes of this novel.  Maybe it's also about how you should give love a second chance. Finally, the novel is very funny.

In Sacramento, Jocelyn forms the book club and invites her long time friend Sylvia. Long ago, Jocelyn stole Sylvia’s boyfriend (or did Sylvia’s steal Jocelyn’s?). Now Sylvia is about to be divorced from that very same boyfriend, and with that in mind, Jocelyn invites a neatish oddish 40 year bachelor, Grigg, to the book club. Intended for Sylvia? We shall see.

Allegra is Sylvia’s daughter, an accident prone lesbian daredevil who has been unhappy in love. Bernadette, the fifth member, is old and has given up on looks, but seems to have had the most interesting life, with lots and lots of husbands. Prudie, a high school teacher, has the world’s worst mother – and when that mother dies, she is crushed.

The sentences are beautifully written.  The book is narrated in the first person plural, which you don’t often see and which works well.

Also, the discussion questions at the end, which I initially skipped over because I thought they were actual discussion questions, are a hilarious commentary on the novel. As well as American society.

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