The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Ahh… yet another brilliant concept, but not brilliantly executed. Sylvia, Bernadette, Jocelyn, Prudie, Allegra, and Grigg all get together to form a Jane Austen book club – they’ll read each of Austen’s six novels over a 6-month period, and get together and talk about them. Sylvia and Jocelyn have been best friends since they were 11, and the club is part of an effort to cheer Sylvia up – her marriage is ending after 32 years.

Sylvia’s a quiet librarian; Jocelyn is a dog breeder; Bernadette does a lot of things, and yoga; Allegra is Sylvia’s fiesty lesbian daughter; Prudie is a 28-year old high school French teacher, and Grigg is a computer tech guy that Jocelyn meets out-of-town, and who agrees to join their book club so they “have a male perspective”. Together they get to know each other, and slowly pick through Jane Austen’s novels – what she meant by what she wrote, the advice and life lessons to take away from each, etc. In a way, the club helps them navigate their own messy love lives. You also learn a lot about the characters’ pasts. It was kind of nice to learn a little more about the childhood lives of some of the members.

I honestly can’t say exactly how I like the book, because I saw the movie first. (In my defense, I saw the movie before I realized it was based on a book. I think. It was years ago.) I love the movie. This book paled in comparison for me. The style of writing was a little hard to get used to… I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was. Almost like the author was just announcing everything, instead of letting the story try to tell itself. Or maybe she just didn’t have enough pages to write it in. Or maybe it’s because the chapters are organized by book / month, instead of switching among characters’ perspectives. I don’t know.

Of course the movie is different than the book, but not by a whole lot. A lot of the dialogue comes directly from the book. And I approve of the changes made in the movie. For instance, I mentioned above that the club helps the members sort out their own love lives. Except that the book kind of leaves Prudie out. It hints at the small troubles in her marriage, but nothing really comes of it. At least in the movie they gave Prudie more of a relationship story that needed fixing, so that by the end truly ALL characters had used Austen to help themselves.

Overall, I’d recommend the book. But then go watch the movie. Don’t do it the other way around, because it will taint your opinion of the book and you’ll be unable to decide how you really feel. Like me.

Sarah Says: This is the first book I’m officially not rating. I can’t decide. If you’ve read the book, and never seen the movie, or seen it afterwards, then leave me a comment and share your thoughts!

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  1. >I read TJABC YEARS ago, forgot all about it, then watched the movie, then read it a second time. And I totally agree – although I liked the book, the movie is by far my favourite of the two. The characters are more likeable and warm, somehow, and the storyline is clearer. And those reading montages at the start of every month just make me want to snuggle up with a book! It's one of my favourite 'anytime' movies that I can stick on no matter how I'm feeling or what I'm doing. :)Ellie @ Musings of a Bookshop Girl


  2. >I've been wanting to see the movie but I've been waiting to see it so I can read the book first. I totally know what you mean about one of them tainting the other so I will definitely try to do the book first!


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