Friday, September 5, 2008
The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler
This is one of those books I am liking more now that I'm done with it and can think about the characters' experiences with a little distance between us. I didn't fall in love with any of them, didn't really feel compelled by them as I was reading. On one occasion, I found myself checking to see how many more pages I had to get through and was happy to find a huge chunk of pages at the end that were additional materials and not stuff I *had* to read.
But now that I've finished reading it, I am finding that it did plant little seeds of "oh, I did like that" all over my brain and I have to say it is a good read.
The best thing about the book, though, and the thing I appreciated and liked from the get-go, is the way Fowler pays homage to Austen through the structure of her own novel. Each chapter takes a particular Austen book, and uses the theme of that book as the backdrop for the tale of the character hosting the reading group that month. Obviously, if you've read Austen at all, that makes the story lines created by Fowler fairly predictable in nature, but it's still an interesting read.
I have to admit I've yet to get on board with the whole Jane Austen revival that's gone on as of late; there are about eleventy billion books being published today that go back to contemplate Austen's stories from the point of view of another character, or creating new stories branching off where Austen left off. I hesitate to pick any of those up because I have a hard time believing they can even come close to duplicating Austen's style or perfection. They all look like they'd be hokey romantic drivel to me and Austen's novels go so far beyond that, I think it might be insulting to try to pick up where she left off. But I don't think Fowler's book does that at all. She brings some of Austen's themes (and truly she does focus on the romance of Austen's stories in her own recreations, but in a unsentimental way, I think) into a modern circle of people and simply shows the timelessness of Austen's thematic content.
Not going to go down as my favorite book ever, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.