Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Jane Austen Book Club


Last week, I finished the second on my list of “Christmas books”—The Jane Austen Book Club. I went into this book expecting a lot. Usually, I don’t do this, either because 1) I don’t know a lot about a book before I pick it up to read or 2) I’ve learned to go in with no expectations so I can be pleasantly surprised by something great and so I am not as likely to be disappointed by something that is less than fantastic. But in this case, I did have an expectation, and I think it was mostly because of this expectation that I was somewhat disappointed in the book.

The book was just fine. I’m not writing this to say that I disliked the book, that it didn’t hold my interest, or that I don’t think it was well written. It was in every way fine, and in some ways delightful. (Some detail and a few of the storylines were quite interesting.) There were six “main characters”, and the book was divided into six parts, one for each of Jane Austen’s novels—Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. (So each part dealt with a particular Austen novel and a particular “book club” member.) I found that I was very interested in each character within the part on them, and at the end of the part I was disappointed to move on to the next character because I wanted to know more. I felt like I was just getting to know the character, and then had to switch my focus.

The author did draw some interesting parallels between Austen storylines, and the lives of the six characters in the Jane Austen book club. I think I would have gotten even more here had I read more of Austen’s work. I’ve read Pride & Prejudice, and I more or less know the storylines (having seen movies, which obviously isn’t close to the same, but can give you the gist of a plot) for Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Mansfield Park. Reading this book did inspire me to want to read more Austen. (Although that’s a dangerous sport because when I read Austen, I start to think in Austen-speak, and then end up using way too many words in my own writing.)

The other thing that disappointed me was the end of the book. Everything was very … tied up. With the interesting ins and outs of plot and characterization earlier on, I was in some ways disappointed to see everything tie up so completely. I felt that the characters betrayed my sense of how they would react to certain situations. Probably the author was trying to make it tie up just like ... well, an Austen book!

This problem with the ending may be more of a problem with me than a problem with the book, though. I find more and more that I’m disappointed with endings (and sometimes entire second halves) of books. It might be some books start better than they end. I felt strongly this way about The Lovely Bones, which I read years ago. I also felt this way when I read Memoirs of a Geisha last year. I was so enthralled by the first half, and then the second half didn’t really “bring it home” for me. I enjoyed it, but I don’t feel that it kept its momentum.

So, all in all, I enjoyed The Jane Austen Book Club. I think it’s worth a read especially for Austen fans, and in general because of some vivid scenes and characterizations throughout.

I am now doubling up and reading Poetry as Survival and Life of Pi. So far, so good on both counts!

4 Comments:

  • I was also extremely dissatisfied with LOVELY BONES. The beginning was absolutely riveting, and then the book got, well, just silly. I haven't read "J. Austin's Book Clb." You've done a thoughtful review of it. Erin, thank you so much for the card and book for my birthday. That was the best birthday card EVER. The cat and the tuna fish can. :-) I am saving the book for a time when I need to clean out all the junk and cobwebs from my brain. I'm busy studying right now and I've got to say with it. But I look forward to reading my first Agatha Christie novel. I hope you get as much out of Poetry as Survival as I did. It's a book that's worth reading more than once. The students in the seminar have enjoyed it. Stay warm, Erin! Brrrr! How is Phoebe?

    By Blogger Theresa Williams, at 8:59 PM  

  • I didn't care much for "...Book Club." I'd have to say, though, it was maybe just personal preference - I just like a more personal style of writing. So I'm not a very good judge of this kind of book. The world in the book felt like it was an arm's length away; I couldn't relate. This probably says more about me than the book :-)

    By Blogger beths front porch, at 9:21 PM  

  • I was so excited to read the title of your post because I thought you were starting a Jane Austen book club. I enjoyed your review of the book, and I think I'll skip it based on your review and Beth's comments. I'd rather read more of Jane's work instead. :)

    I'm surprising myself with what I'm reading these days. I just finished Virginia Woolfe's Orlando, and now I'm reading Jane Eyre. I guess it's just taken me this long to get around to wanting to read the classics. :)

    By Blogger Erin, at 11:44 AM  

  • Interesting to know.

    By Anonymous Marenda, at 10:44 AM  

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