Click here to read reviewer Radhika Vyas Sharma's take on The Jane Austen Book Club.
“The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.”
Have you ever read a novel and been so engrossed in its message and language that you highlight passages, stick Post-It notes to pages, and relate to the written words? Read The Jane Austen Book Club, and you’ll find yourself doing just those things.
First impressions – as Austen fans know – are important. The story begins with a description of each of the six members of the book club and offers a brief overview of each character’s relationship with the others. This definitely helps to understand the hierarchy – so to speak – within the group’s dynamics.
Jocelyn, the club’s originator, never married, although she has been the object of affection. Now she showers her attention on her dogs. Sylvia, who’s been married for 32 years, is in the midst of a divorce after her husband left her for a younger woman. Bernadette is the oldest member of the group and has been married several times. She enjoys telling stories. The story of Bernadette is that she has decided to let herself go since she is “over the hill” and doesn’t care what others think of her. The youngest member of the Austen club is Prudie, a French teacher, who is lucky in marriage yet thinks about sex with others. Sylvia’s daughter, Allegra, might be the most cynical about love, and she’s also coming off a break-up with her girlfriend, Corinne. The only man in the group is Grigg, a sci-fi
aficionado who is new to Austen’s works. Does he have a secret agenda?
The book is broken into chapters, each titled with the month the club is meeting, who is hosting, and what book will be discussed. It’s a wonderful way to set up the story, follow the action, and see how characters change throughout the meetings.
The spectacular part of the book is that each character seems to mirror the
novel they select for the club. Like Elizabeth Drew’s quote, each character appears to live more fully because of the choices they’ve made in reading selections. And, each character seems confused about the love choices they’ve made in life.
Clips from Austen’s novels appear in each chapter and not only provide readers a chance to revel in Austen-speak, but also tie the lives of the club members into the Austen novel. These modern-day Austen characters work through current problems, making it easy for readers to empathize.
Some readers might pass on this novel, categorizing it as chick-lit; however, this is simply not the truth.
The themes and ideas of the novel will resonate with readers – even those who haven’t read Jane Austen. It’s a charming story about life’s loves, life’s losses, and life’s relationships.
The subtle humor adds to the readability. You won’t find yourself laughing uncontrollably, but the quirkiness of the characters and the situations they find themselves in will definitely evoke a chuckle.
After reading The Jane Austen Book Club, I’m wondering if I’ll live more intensely for having read the novel. It’s possible this book is on its way to being a new classic.