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
, 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
, 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!