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The Jane Austen Book Club (novel & movie)

February 26, 2008

A NovelHaving mentioned in a previous blog post my desire to read something Austen-ish, I picked up The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Not only was it on my 2008 TBR Challenge list (one down, eleven to go!) but I figured that since the movie has just come out on DVD it might be fun to read it, then rent the movie.

The Jane Austen Book Club revolves around Jocelyn and a group of four women (and one guy) who decide to start a book club and read Jane Austen novels. Within the first five pages, the book club members are introduced in a clever way:

Each of us has a private Austen. Jocelyn’s Austen wrote wonderful novels about love and courtship, but never married. Allegra’s Austen wrote about the impact of financial need on the intimate lives of women. If she’d worked in a bookstore, Allegra would have shelved Austen in the horror section.

Each month the book club members read one Austen novel, then meet at one club members house to discuss the book. Interspersed between the meetings is the story about the individuals in the club. Sylvia is the heartbroken wife who’s husband just dumped her for another woman. Her daughter Allegra has problems of her own with her live-in girlfriend. Grigg, the only male in the book club and a science-fiction reader to boot, joins the club to be close to Joceyln, who is the ultimate matchmaker and now wants Grigg to be Sylvia’s love interest. Add Bernadette and Prudie in the mix and you have an eclectic group of individuals.  

I really wanted to enjoy this book, but once I started reading the first couple chapters there were a couple glaring things that I had a hard time ignoring. First, the narrative felt disjointed and didn’t flow well. In addition, I never connected or really cared about any of the characters.

Of course, there were things that I liked about The Jane Austen Book Club, namely the humor scattered throughout. I also liked the fact that the author gives a synopsis of each Austen book that was discussed within book itself, just in case you aren’t familiar with the original works. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make me really enjoy the book, so I won’t be recommending it to my friends anytime soon.

The Jane Austen Book ClubAs for the movie on DVD, I ended up having a completely different experience. What I thought was just going to be a carbon copy of the book I just read, I found the movie to be so much more enjoyable. In fact, some of the more annoying qualities I found in the book translated much better on film and I found most of the characters likable. I also appreciated the little changes made in the screenplay, which tightened the whole story up a bit. It probably didn’t hurt that Hugh Dancy was in it either (the last time I saw him he was wearing tights in Ella Enchanted)! 

So, my recommendation would be to skip over the book, pop up a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy the movie instead.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Swapna Krishna permalink
    February 26, 2008 2:02 pm

    Just wanted to say I had the EXACT same reaction to the book and movie – I read the book first, thought it was blah and overrated, but really loved the movie.

  2. February 26, 2008 2:11 pm

    Awesome. Not often that happens but thanks for saving me from the book. Blockbuster here I come!

  3. February 26, 2008 3:28 pm

    Stephanie, I felt exactly the same way. One of the few times I liked the movie better than the book.

  4. February 26, 2008 4:02 pm

    I was really not even considering going to see the movie given that I really didn’t enjoy the book at all. Maybe I will reconsider!

  5. February 26, 2008 5:01 pm

    Hmm . . . I have this book on my bookshelf but haven’t started reading it yet. I haven’t been in a hurry either. Maybe I’ll watch the movie first and then the movie. Have you read Austenland by Shannon Hale? Very “Austenie” (is that a word?!).

  6. February 26, 2008 5:55 pm

    I didn’t care for this book one bit. I gave it a 1/5 (F) rating, I disliked it so much. Here’s my little book journal blurb:

    What a disappointment, especially after reading a blurb by Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow (which I absolutely LOVED). She says, “Three things I hate about Karen Joy Fowler’s novels: 1. There aren’t enough of them. 2. I finish them too quickly. 3. Nothing. There is no third thing.” Well, this was slow and boring and I didn’t bother finishing. The characters were one-dimensional and whiny. The interspersed French (untranslated) was rather annoying. The only thing I liked was the cover (hardcover edition)! Perhaps I might have enjoyed it more if I were a bigger Austen fan. I’m just such a sucker for books about book clubs. Lorna Landvik’s Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons was more my cuppa tea.

    Having said that, the movie sounds good. Thanks for the review!

  7. February 26, 2008 6:22 pm

    I thought the book was a bit flat-now I’ll have to check out the movie. I got my prize package in the mail today-thanks so much!

  8. psujulie permalink
    February 26, 2008 6:54 pm

    It’s so nice to see that so many people agree with me about the book. I read it when it first came out and didn’t like it at all. I kept wondering what the fuss was all about!

  9. February 26, 2008 11:36 pm

    Well, pooh. I have a copy of the book and have put off the reading because so many people disliked the book. Okay, so if and when I get around to reading the book, I’ll skim and I won’t skip the movie. Thanks for that!

  10. February 26, 2008 11:39 pm

    Thanks for visiting boldblueadventure and entering the giveaway for Firefly Lane. I’ve got you entered in the contest.

  11. February 27, 2008 10:04 am

    I completely agree. I just saw the movie last night, actually, and really liked it.
    The book was okay. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it.

    And, yes, Hugh Dancy. Loved him.

  12. February 27, 2008 1:28 pm

    I am just really really tired of all this Austeniana: spin-off books, endless TV and movie versions, etc. Can’t people come up with some new ideas? I reacted to this book the same way you did. I thought it was dull and the characters flat. BUT, maybe I will try the film….

  13. February 27, 2008 6:58 pm

    Stephanie, I had many of the same feelings. I read this one the week that I got married (which was also the week after Grad school semester papers/exams), so it was light enough for me to get through. But, I can’t remember anything about the characters–I wasn’t able to connect with any of them. I had other qualms, but I can’t remember them. 🙂 I’ll have to pull out my old reading journal. when I saw previews for the movie–all of it seemed unfamiliar! Oh well! Maybe I’ll rent it one night while hubby is out.

  14. February 28, 2008 1:07 pm

    Cool! I have avoided the movie because I thought it would be as lame as the book. The book was interesting, but didn’t leave me in the “I can’t put this down” phase of life….Now I can look up the movie!

  15. February 28, 2008 4:48 pm

    Gosh, I am soooo with you on the book! Tried to really like it, but just didn’t.

  16. February 28, 2008 6:04 pm

    i found you via the tbr challenge!

    a friend and i just started a book lovers message board. we’d love for you to join!


  17. February 28, 2008 11:17 pm

    It’s been so long ago that I can’t even remember much about this book let alone if I liked it. After reading your review, I think I’ll go rent the movie.

  18. February 29, 2008 1:02 pm

    I think I would rather watch the movie. I don’t know if I have the patience for this book.

    I just got Peony in Love by Lisa See. Mom said it’s as awesome as her first book. Can you believe her book was the first one? I loved that book and I can tell you from reading the first page of this one it will be awesome.

  19. March 5, 2008 7:45 pm

    Well! Skip the movie and watch the book! Thats not something you hear very often from a Bookie. But..I trust you. I’ll check out the flick first!

  20. akw permalink
    May 13, 2010 9:32 pm

    I didn’t like the book much either. In fact, I sold it to a used book store b/c I didn’t like it and I never sell back books. I did enjoy the movie and ended up buying a dvd of it after renting it . This is the rare instance where the movie IS better. Go figure.


  1. Lost in Austen « Stephanie’s Written Word
  2. Jane’s Book Club
  3. The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler « A Good Stopping Point

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