Another quickie review here. Within a day or 2 of finishing Nixonland, I read The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler (Putnam, 2004). It was entertaining and lively -- perfect for after a 2-week slog through an interesting but dense history tome -- but I don't know if it quite lived up to expectations. Patricia O'Conner's New York Times review called it "a tidy number, a perfectly cut and polished little gem with just enough facets. But that's not the half of it. This exquisite novel is bigger and more ambitious than it appears. It's that rare book that reminds us what reading is all about." Me? Eh, it was good, but not that good. In brief, it's the story of a California book club -- five women and one man -- devoted exclusively to reading the novels of Jane Austen. Each chapter is set at a different character's home during a different month, and devoted to a different Austen novel. (Does this sound like the intro to a logic puzzle, or is it just me?)
While there is some talk about the books, the novel is primarily about the club's 6 members: dog-mad, hyper-organized, never-married Jocelyn; her long-time best friend Sylvia, who's going through a divorce; Sylvia's thrill-seeking and somewhat selfish daughter Allegra; happily married and somewhat grating young French teacher Prudie; thrice-married madcap old lady Bernadette; and the sensitive, inscrutable Grigg, the club's sole male member. Trouble was, I couldn't really bring myself to care too much about any of the characters ... kind of like watching a TV show that's interesting enough you don't bother to switch channels, but not so gripping you make a note to tune in next week. I enjoyed Fowler's description at the beginning about how each of the club members sees Austen differently -- a comic author, a social commentatory, a romantic -- and finished the book determined to read more Austen myself (I've only read Pride and Prejudice thus far, and that only when a dear friend whose favorite it is berated me for my ignorance last spring). I've even added Wit's End, Fowler's latest, to my On Deck list. I don't, however, think The JABC will stay with me as being particularly memorable.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.