The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

This is another book I read because I watched the movie, liked it, and then found out that it was a book first. Le Sigh. So I read the book, and loved it too. It doesn’t necessarily fall into my recent ‘only happy stories’ mandate for my reading list, but I will say that it was mostly happy. Every once in a while, Fowler would sneak in some sort of heart-breaking little anecdote about one of the characters that took my breath away (not the mandate! not the mandate!). Though of course it was also about people discussing Jane Austen’s books, so. What’s not to like about that? As someone who voraciously re-reads every one of Austen’s books every few months, I was interested in knowing what other people love (or hate) about them (even if the other people were fictional characters).

I’ll confess that I didn’t think too hard about what the book was trying to say — if you tried, you could probably say that one character was supposed to be Emma, one Marianne, one Elizabeth, one Fanny, etc. etc. I did see elements of Austen’s characters in Fowler’s characters — I liked that. It’s interesting to see how an author perceives a modern-day Fanny might be living her life, or a modern-day Marianne. And I liked to hear what Fowler’s characters had to say about Austen’s life and her characters (and, by talking about the characters, they were often talking about other people in their lives or in the book club too). But I didn’t want to over-analyze it (something I rarely do with books, anyway).

Up next on the reading list: Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym. I’m told (admittedly by someone in Real Simple magazine, so possibly not an entirely trustworthy judge of my tastes) it’s a light-hearted, happy-ending-type affair, so off I go.

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