“The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler was a very surprising read. I picked it up because I was looking for something light to cleanse my book palate after an intense read. What I got was in no way a ‘light read’ and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I felt for all the characters that we meet in “The Jane Austen Book Club” and the huge spectrum of issues that we go through with the characters.
“Each of us has a private Austen.” (The Jane Austen Book Club, pg 1). The book immediately sets the tone for how each of the six people in the book club have their own way of enjoying Jane Austen. The group consists of five women and one man and they come together to read and discuss Jane Austen collectively. I was impressed with the diversity of these characters. The story is told from various perspectives with Jocelyn as the main character. It was her idea in the first place to start the book club. She gets several of her friends together that already knew each other, convinces the daughter of her best friend to join, and the only guy in the group – Grigg to form the club. “We’d known Jocelyn long enough to wonder whom Grigg was intended for. Grigg was too young for someone of us, too old for the rest. His inclusion in the club was mystifying.” (The Jane Austen Book Club, pg 3). Although there was some resistance at first to the idea of a man in a book club (and a Jane Austen one at that), Grigg soon becomes a welcome addition to the book club.
I really liked how each character in this novel was so completely different from the next. That was part of what was so intriguing and well done about this book. Fowler takes the time to develop her characters so thoughtfully. The more we learn about each person, the more you understand why that particular Jane Austen book was associated with him or her. It was a whole new way to read – following characters as they read and discuss their favorite books. It is part of why I picked up this book in the first place. I was surprised at how much depth there was.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I think it would be a great read for anyone. I was thoroughly impressed by Karen Joy Fowler’s writing. I am looking forward to reading more of her works. I also have an overwhelming desire to go read some more Jane Austen, so I might just do that too.