Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

Maybe I should hold back on the Austen for a while... it seems I'm getting a little burned out on Regency ruffles and perfectly-written gentlemen. After all, there's only two more days until February, which will hopefully soon usher in the return of Emma Approved, and fix my Jane-dependence in short order. But the disappointment of Death Comes to Pemberley left such a bad taste in my mouth that I just had to try and rinse it out with something better... which is why I picked up an old recommendation of some of my aunts, and started Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

The novel follows the lives of six friends - Jocelyn, Sylvia, Prudie, Allegra, Bernadette, and (the lone dude) Grigg - as they make their way through each of Austen's novels in their book club, while using the classic stories to examine the love - or lack thereof - in their own lives. Over the course of the six months they are together, they find relationships tested, and others come together, while the under-running current of Jane's stories provide some lessons they just might need to hear.

This book is yet another on loan from my mom, who, before her, had been recommended the novel by two of her sisters, which led to a bit of expectation before I had even began the novel that it would be a fairly girly romance with a lot of heart. And for the most part, my prediction was spot on. This is definitely not a book most dudes I can think of would pick up of their own volition. And the emotional core of the novel was definitely the focus: relationships - between a mom and her daughter, between two old friends, between a husband and a wife - are definitely the focus, and are both well-described and well-constructed.

However, what really struck me the most about the novel - especially for one written with the centralized idea being the function of Jane Austen's writing in people's lives - was the more literary nature of the writing style. There were some instances of really lovely language in there, and, honestly, it was unexpectedly nice. I didn't really guess that there would be more complex language and extended metaphor or anything, but I liked it. The overall style was one I really liked, and it was fitting for a book about books.

Not that the stories within TJABC really had to do with Austen; primarily the novels just served as a basic jumping off point for some interesting, three-dimensional characters, to touch on some pertinent contemporary themes in relationships. But it wasn't anything spectacular, mind you: whether it was because I wasn't the ideal demographic for reading it, or just that it never really connected with me on a personal level, there wasn't much of anything between me and this book. It was good. I liked the writing. It was interesting... but in the end, it wasn't for me.

Overall, it was a nice and comfortable feel-good read to pass the time with, that never slips into stereotypes and leaves breathing room for imagination, but never really sparked anything in my mind, either.

(Oh, and don't watch the movie trailer... I think it actually made me like the book less.)

1 comment:

  1. I read this book last summer and was disappointed by it. After loving the movie so much and watching it a few times, I expected the book to be just as good. But sadly no. I wanted more Austen, and it severely lacked her despite being titled after the author. In this instance, the movie was much better than the book, definitely.