Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Austen-Affiliated Novel I Didn't Hate

As part of that Romantic Reading Challenge I joined this year, I read Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

I was worried, upon embarking on the journey of reading this novel. I had heard, from a therapist a few years ago, that this book wasn't very good. I believe her words were, "They just read Jane Austen books. It was boring."

And then the movie came out, and it looked cute, so a friend and I rented it and watched it. I liked it, and this caused me to consider reading the book.

There was one more factor that caused me to be reluctant at the idea of reading this book, however: its affiliation with Jane Austen.

I love Jane Austen's books. Every single one of them is enjoyable - witty, realistic, romantic. Unfortunately, most of the more recent books that have been published by fellow Austen-enthusiasts have been horrible. I realize that it is difficult to write a book worthy of the great author from the nineteenth century, and authors who try deserve credit for their endeavor, but I don't like being repeatedly disappointed, either.

In this case, I wasn't. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are all interesting, and described in a captivating way that makes the reader want to avoid putting the book down at all costs.

The one thing that was kind of weird about the book was the narration style. Primarily told in the third person, the narration tends to focus on one, or only a couple, of the characters. There were times, however, when a plural second person point of view was used. So I, as the reader, felt as though I was being addressed by one person in the group, talking about everyone in the group, but in actuality, it was the narrator, who was not in the reading group. It felt kind of voyeuristic, stalkerish, and wrong.

But the novel, overall, is very good. It's one of those magical books that just makes you feel good, even when it recounts bad things happening. It reminds me of Alice Hoffman's books, which are permeated with fantastical creatures and those realistic magic moments that are in our lives.

Since Jane Austen's novels all involve love and courtship, the characters, through reading and discussing the six books Ms. Austen wrote, realize issues in their own love lives. The reading of Austen's books are healing, and feel like a healing balm to the reader, as well.

This book is great, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has read Ms. Austen's books, is interested in reading Ms. Austen's books, or who loves love. The book is, perhaps, a bit esoteric - it is definitely easier to follow if you HAVE read Ms. Austen's books. But there are summaries of the Austen books, if you haven't read them.


naida said...

I have this in my TBR.
Glad you enjoyed it. I love Jane Austen too, but am sometimes weary of Austen related novels.

Shelly Quade said...

Well, I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.