Avoid The Jane Austen Book Club at all costs. If I believed that people actually turned over in their graves when they were wronged, then I would be certain that the eloquent, illustrious Ms. Austen would be turning in hers over the publication of this book. I cannot for the life of me figure out why this book was a bestseller unless a lot of women, seeing the words Jane and Austen together assumed this would be a worthy piece of literature to add to their libraries. It is not. Here’s why:
A group of women form the “all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time-book-club”. Right. Sounds promising: a group of present day Austen-lovers who each have a little modern-day Elizabeth or Jane or Marianne in them. Each character we’re told is, of course, super unique. Fowler tries very hard to make them interesting, I’ll give her that. Instead they come off sounding too unique while somehow also types. There’s Joselyn, a single 50 something woman with a kennel, collection of dogs, and a penchant for matchmaking.
Bernadette who has tried her hand at several husbands and is single again in her late sixties. There’s the language teacher, a young woman named Prudie who is the typical French teacher and always pronounces her words just so. Sylvia, Jocelyn’s best friend who is dealing with the break-up of her marriage. Her 30-year-old daughter, who has just experienced a breakup of her own. Blah blah blah.
To keep things interesting, the book club has a token male, a man named Grigg whom Jocelyn mysteriously invited. None of the women are quite sure what to think of him, and while several are inclined to discount him (he is, horror of horrors, a fan of science fiction) Griff slowly begins to win their favor. The natural questions that arise are: will he be a Wickam or a Darcy, and who will he end up with?
I admit my snobbery for all things Austen. I am an unabashed Austen purist, and it is my opinion that this book deserves little, if any; of the hype it has been given. I don’t think I’ve ever said this, but just watch the movie.
While I did not enjoy The Jane Austen Book Club, Bonnie Hurren’s reading is quite good with a clear voice that captured the conversational tone of the narrator.