Title: The Jane Austen Book Club
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Publisher: Plume 2005
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4/5 stars Movie: 4/5
Reading Challenges: Summer Romance - Contemporary; Page to Screen
How I Got It: I own it!
This is one of those books that I have tried not to read. I was afraid that it would take my beloved Jane Austen and butcher her stories. I was afraid it would try to be clever, but fail miserably. For some reason, I eventually picked this up on clearance. And I'm pleasantly surprised. This book is more about the themes of Austen's books and how they connect to these characters' lives. I loved how the book was set-up. Each month the book club meets at one of the character's houses and discusses one of the books. Each chapter we get a person's life story and how it relates to the themes of the books. I love the focus on themes and opinions rather than trying to recreate the stories. And so, I ended up liking this book way more than I thought I would.
Specifically, I loved Bernadette's story. Her unconventional life was a real treat to read. Jocelyn and Sylvia's stories of marriage just didn't connect to me. But Bernadette's was fun to read. Grigg seemed like a side character with no much to really learn from him. Allegra made me mad. Her anger and constant pessimism really got to me. And her treatment of Sylvia was just wrong. Prudie's story was interesting, but then her mother died. It seemed like after that she disappeared. Her character comes back from the funeral, but we don't get any deep exploration of what happened and what's going to happen. I would have liked to hear more from her, but alas none. So some stories I liked and some not. But overall, it was an interesting book.
Disclaimer: I saw the movie before reading the book. While reading the book, I tried to completely block out the movie. I did a fairly decent job of it.
In some ways, I liked the movie more. In this case, the movie focused on less the connection to the books and more on the characters themselves. I thought the movie did a good job at interspersing the stories with the current action and book discussions. I especially loved the little shots of each character reading the books. I love the atmospheric shots. Very nice. As to the characters:
- Allegra -- Still annoying and still my least favorite. She is completely self-centered.
- Prudie -- She irritating, as she should be, but I still do like her character. I feel sorry for her messed up existence. I thought the inclusion of the affair with the student makes a lot of sense for her character.
- Sylvia -- The movie makes her more sympathetic to me. She's much more of a real person in the movie.
- Jocelyn -- If anything, the movie makes me like her less. She's self-centered and oblivious, but she is caring deep down.
- Bernadette -- Less crazy than the book, and I love her more for it. She's definitely my favorite character.
- Grigg -- Much more attractive (in every way) than the book. He seemed like a caricature, but becomes a much more developed character in the movie.
Overall, I really like the book and the movie. Big surprise to me!