Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Karen Joy Fowler - The Jane Austen Book Club

Karen Joy Fowler's book, The Jane Austen Book Club, came highly recommended by some online reviews. The name and theme of the book was highly tantalising to me, being a huge fan of Jane Austen. I ran around trying to procure the book anyhow. I put in a request at my usual bookshop and soon got a call by them that the book was in stock. Off I went like a rabbit to get the book I had long been dying to read.

No doubt the book is a gem. It is subtly crafted and the Jane Austen references are so subtle and gentle that they may not be there at all. Of all the Jane Austen books, it is the closest to Emma. Which is very nice, as Emma is my favorite as well. I even love its derivative, the movie Clueless.

The book follows the lives of six people who form a book club. Their purpose is to read and discuss the works of Jane Austen. For six months, they meet at the home of each member to read/discuss a book. Their lives superimpose the book club and they go through some changes as they keep meeting.

However, I found the book not all that it was hyped to be. I am quite used to 'slow' fiction, I read Anne Tyler happily and usually love her books. They have a charm which is hard to resist.

For some reason, I found the KJF book a little shallow. Sure, her characters are at some kind of crossroads, but they never really unfurl themselves. They don't walk out of the pages and grip us like the characters of Anne Tyler. Her story goes backward and forward in time, trying to give us an overview of her characters, but despite the intense focus on a character at a time, they never come together for us. Of all her characters, I liked Bernadette the best, but she wasnt allowed any 'action' in the story. The love story proceeds too slowly, in fact the love angle took me by surprise.

Umm... on second thoughts, as the book was on the bestseller list for a while, may be it was the hype that pushed my expectations too high, or maybe I did not read it in the right frame of mind, but this is my first impression and verdict on this book.


workthatwardrobe said...

Just found your blog after you visited mine.
I know what you mean about hype. I have just read The Return by Victoria Hislop. her long awaited follow-up novel after The Island. I was v disappointed.
Stock characters and a twist which was stretching dramatic licence too far.
The flamenco bits were great though.

avdi said...

Victoria Hislop, never read her. Just googled for The Island and the story sounds enticing. Thanks for the tip, will keep far away from The Return. Sometimes I think the authors are pressured to measure up to their initial success and wind up failing

couchpapaya said...

is this a movie too ? i know i read a review that was so well-written on MS that i immediately added it to my list. good to know, i will read but not with so many expectations. btw, if ur looking for another book refning JA this comes highly recommended Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen by Sybil G. Brinton. it's v. hard to find though :(

never read anne tyler .... any particular book u recommend?


Oxymoronic said...

I am MUM... keeping MS

avdi said...

hmmm papaya : You could read The Accidental Tourist, Searching for Caleb and another book (the name escapes me) which i have reviewed here on the blog - check my past entries. Anytime I see Anne Tyler, I pick it up, and am never disappointed.

If that book is hard to find, I doubt if I will be able to get it. But will put it on my wishlist anyway.

Btw, this book, the Jane Austen Book club was made into a movie and our fellow MS ian Anindo Sen had reviewed it very well, that had triggered my desire to read the book. I remember seeing your comments there.

avdi said...

oxy wht are you saying? I dont understand.

Oxymoronic said...

I said I am keeping MS.. Keeping Mouth Shut...:):) Jane I read the usual famous ones, Not much into her though and would never be I guess. So, nothing to say.

avdi said...


aha.. ok..

Jane herself seems to have equal number of fans and detractors, both equally passionate. I say, each to his own.

which books do you fancy?

avdi said...

Papaya - Breathing Lessons ! That was the name of the Anne Tyler book that I liked a lot. Have reviewed it too in an earlier blog

Oxymoronic said...

Well, anything which is not "self-help, related to health-n-living, business, literature n finance". Literature to an extent I can, but these days not much. What I prefer can be anything like history, biographical (not of businessmen n scientists), entertainment, leisure, law or out-n-out fiction.

avdi said...

That is a lot. I do hope you like Amitav Ghosh. A friend recommended me and I hve fallen totally in love with him

Oxymoronic said...

Your friend indeed has good taste. Yes, I have read Amitav and tell your friend I love him too.

WhatsInAName said...

Sometimes hype and expectations can ruin an experience. But then what to do? We are humans :) I have faced this problem even with movies. Go with high expectation and come back disappointed!
Dont know if I will read the book but your review was as cool as water ;)

avdi said...

Hey.. hehe cool as water eh? Thanks !

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