Sunday, February 17, 2008

Book: The Jane Austen Book Club

Yet another book that I decided to pick up because of a movie.  I'm thinking maybe I should start waiting to see the movie before reading the book - seems like I'm just asking for disappointment.  Although, I am not even one of those people that insists on complete accuracy when translating a book to the screen as long as they don't completely change the characters - I enjoyed the new Pride and Prejudice, for example.  It seems like the main problem with film adaptations is that the movies often just miss the point of certain novels.  I also preferred the LOTR movies to the novels, but that isn't saying much - those books, especially The Two Towers were incredibly dry, and even the movies went on way too long (especially the last one - how many times can a movie set up an ending, go to black screen and then keep going?!)  Also, they changed one of the characters and portrayed him in a negative light which was completely unneccessary for the movie (Boromir's brother Faramir - he was much nicer and nobler in the novel).


Anyway, after over 600 pages of critical analysis I needed something light, so it seemed like the perfect time to pick this up - also, it sort of relates to The Madwoman in the Attic - Gilbert and Gubar talked about Austen as a 19th century woman author (yes, I know I'm stretching it).


As expected, the novel was an entertaining, light read. It didn't provide great insights, but it was a fun read about book lovers, even poking fun at certain types of readers and Austenites (such as the people that think Austen is infallible and her choices can't be critiqued).  The Jane Austen book club is made up of six different people, five women and one man.  In the first few pages, Fowler discusses their different perspectives of Austen.  One person sees them as romances, another as a critique of the women's economic position, another focuses on the comedy.  Personally, I probably focus more on the social critique and satire.


Following that introduction, each chapter revolves around one of the books, or meetings.  Each person in the group is in charge of one of the novels, and in their chapters, Fowler loosely links the plot or theme of their selected novel to the discussion leader's life.  I enjoyed the way she had them relate to each other, without forcing them to exactly parallel.  For example, Joyce leads the first discussion on Emma, and at one point says, "the Emma plot, the humbling of a pretty, self-satisfied girl is the most popular plot of all time" (15).  This then leads to the story of Joyce's own "humbling," and similar to Emma, Joyce is a failed match maker.


I liked Fowler's idea of weaving six people and Austen's plots together, and it worked well.  While she centers the novel around the book club and her characters' love of Austen, she doesn't overdo the discussions or spend too much time focusing on Austen, so her characters seem well-developed rather than simply copies of Austen. 


Anonymous said...

To say the Lord of the Rings is a dry series if books is almost a heresy. The books are the greatest work of fiction in the 20th century. The characters, places, events all are finely crafted by Tolkein's imagination. The story makes you face the horror of despair and the faintest of hopes as he faced them in the trenches of France. Name a better book if you can.

Anonymous said...

To call The Lord of the Rings dry is a great injustice, This book; because that was the way it was supposed to be published is the greatest work of fiction in the
20th century. I am not as eloquent as you are in your book reviews but to just dismiss Tolkein outright is wrong and the books should be taken as a whole instead of as in parts. They bare the soul of a person who was tormented by the trenches of France, the great war to end all wars. The allies of Great Britain and France can be compared to Rohan and Gondor, as can Germany to Mordor. The war was in a way an end to way of life with rampant industrialization and urbanization like the end of the
3rd Age in Middle Earth. If you can find a better book I will read it. I recommend you give TLOTR another chance.