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The Jane Austen Book Club Paperback – April 26, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
With its many section breaks and point-of-view shifts, Fowler's newest book (following Sister Noon) poses significant challenges for a single narrator. But stage actress Schraf overcomes these obstacles with ease, her voice taking on just a touch of haughtiness for the chapters told from the "we" perspective and then switching back to an unassuming tone for the third-person sections. It may take listeners a short while to grasp the story's structure, but once they do, they'll be hopelessly snared by this witty look at the lives and loves of six people, all members of Central Valley, California's "all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club." As the members discuss Austen's stance on marriage, social status and love, the narrative meanders, touching on defining moments in the characters' lives and then drifting back to describe their current dilemmas: single, middle-aged Jocelyn has never been in love; French teacher Prudie can't stop thinking about men other than her husband; chatty Bernadette has decided to "let herself go"; warm-hearted Sylvia still loves her soon-to-be-ex-husband; emotional Allegra has left her girlfriend; and sci-fi aficionado Grigg is infatuated with someone who may not share his affection. Through subtle alterations of tone and inflection, Schraf neatly conveys the emotions and idiosyncrasies of each character, from Prudie's impossibly pretentious French asides to Bernadette's airy, endless storytelling. Playful and intelligent, this audiobook embodies the best of both the written and aural worlds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
*Starred Review* Fowler, a captivating and good-hearted satirist, exuberantly pays homage to and matches wits with Jane Austen in her most pleasurable novel to date by portraying six irresistible Californians who meet once a month to discuss Austen's six novels. Coyly shifting points of view, Fowler subtly uses her characters' responses to Austen as entree into their poignant and often hilarious life stories. The book club is Jocelyn's idea, a fiftysomething gal who seems to prefer the company of her show dogs to men. She has known Sylvia since grade school, and even used to date Sylvia's husband, who has abruptly moved out, inspiring their beautiful, accident-prone, lesbian artist daughter, Allegra, to move back in and join the book club along with her mother. Also on board are disheveled and loquacious Bernadette; Prudie, a high-school French teacher; and Grigg, the only man. Fowler shares Austen's fascination with the power of stories, and explores the same timeless aspects of human behavior that Austen so masterfully dramatizes, while capturing with anthropological acuity and electrifying humor the oddities of our harried world. Fellow Austenites will love Fowler's fluency in the great novelist's work; every reader will relish Fowler's own ebullient comedy of manners, and who knows how many book clubs will be inspired by this charming paean to books and readers. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
I felt that this book lacked the warmth of the J M Barrie Book Club, to which I had hoped it might compare more favorably. I was tempted to abandon this book before I had finished, but persisted because it was my Book Club's latest read. Incidentally, my Book Club's consensus was much the same as my opinion.
I have to say I'm disappointed. It moves seamlessly from past and present without any acknowledgement. While things like that work on a movie or television screen, it doesn't necessarily come across on the page. If there'd been some kind of annotation it would've made it much more readable and therefore enjoyable.
Readers typically think that a movie from a book is just never as good as the book was originally. This may be an exception.
The movie took what Fowler wanted to do, shows that each of Jane's books ties into the characters in her novel in some way. That there lives in our modern world might be a parallel to characters from the novel.
The movie, with the ability to hear more than one voice to craft a structure, does this a great deal better. The book has its wonderful moments, and you can see how the team for the movie did not do anything but enhance the work of Fowler to make the movie a pleasure to watch and rematch. To declare that this inspiration can turn out to be a gem.
Fowler though needed more editing to have achieved that goodness that the movie gave us. There were whole pieces of information about the characters that needed to be cut and slashed. While there were insights that were poetical in the development of our reading group.
These though, were hampered by great long stretched of Tell not Show. Perhaps Show don't Tell is dying out. It used to be Tell a century and a half ago. But in this work, there was no balance about it, and in this work, the insights into the Austen Canon, along with that of the matching of the characters of the story were not as good as the casting in the movie gave us.
It is not a never again, but this is not a read for every year, or every other year. The movie, however is something worth watching each year, and each time more depth by the team is shown.
I was absolutely thrilled with the first chapter, thinking I'd found what would become one of my favorite books. The story of Jocelyn, the first member to host a club meeting, was brilliant -- charming, lively, witty and touching; however, subsequent chapters were less charming, less interesting and, most disappointing, discussed the Austen novels less and less as they progressed.
Still an enjoyable, if flawed, read.
Most recent customer reviews
uld not get interested in the storyline. Did not finish it one of the few books I did not finish.