April 23, 2008

Jane Austen Book Club

I only just discovered, as I was looking for an image for this post, that this book has been made into a movie. Blargh, hate it when that happens!

I've walked past this book at the library many times. I didn't pick it up because my experiences with books about book clubs have not been good. They're generally sappy and full of stereotypes. But I was in a bit of a hurry so I grabbed it.

This is a great book for a Jane Austen fan, and I am a Jane Austen fan. I own the collected works and have read them repeatedly. In each chapter the club discusses a different Jane Austen book, and each member has their own likes or dislikes regarding Austen or literature or life in general that colors their perception of the book. There is also a synopsis of each Austen book at the end so you can refresh your memory.

The story itself would not be so great if it were not so well written. And it is very well written indeed. Here are some of my favorite quotes.

"In the cottony peace outside we heard the stream rinsing and spitting."

"After everyone had gone and there was no one to see, Sahara would be given the plates to lick, but this was a secret and Sahara could keep a secret."

"We thought how it was time for Allegra to be getting over Corinne. We thought how hard Sylvia was working to get over Daniel. We thought Allegra could learn something from that. Birdshit landed with a plop on the edge of the porch."

This was a good book, but I don't understand why it's being made into a movie, as it's greatness is entirely due to the way it is written. I don't see that coming across in a film at all. As a film it will just be another chick flick, another YaYa Sisterhood or How to Make an American Quilt, something with lots of flashbacks and and lots of breaking up and making up between characters learning to understand one another. Jane Austen cannot possibly be heard in such a film either.

So I do recommend this book, but I will definitely not be seeing the movie.

Edited to add: My favorite scene in this books takes place at a fundraiser some members of the book club attend. They are seated at a table with a fairly popular but formulaic mystery writer, and quickly turn against him when he confesses to never having read Austen because "I don't read much women's stuff. I like a good plot." They shut him out of the conversation and one of their group tells them all a story of one of her ex-husbands. A few months later the mystery writer releases a new book with a story mysteriously similar to the one told at the fundraiser. There are actually several instances in this book of writers stealing the true-life stories of others for plot material. It was an interesting and amusing look at the writing world.


  1. I don't know what repulses me so much about books about books. I guess I can't get over the feeling that the author is using someone else's fame to get themselves fame and fortune.

  2. I don't get that impression from this book. This was really great for someone who's really into Austen and all the ins and outs of her books. It was very well done for a book about a book club, and the different perspectives of all the different characters kept the Austen books safe from too much coloration.

  3. I've seen this book many times, and was not quite sure about it. I didn't know if it would turn into something that resembled a Cliff's Notes on Jane Austen's books, or a book about women who just happened to read Jane Austen. I think I will pick this up next time.


Thanks for joining our discussion of this book!

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