The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club
Karen Joy Fowler

There is a characteristically insightful review of "The Jane Austen Book Club" over at "Book of the Day".

Reading Mapletree7's review reminds me that I found the book itself disappointing but the perspective of the Jane Austen characters in the book fascinating. I've read Jane Austen's novels so many times now that I see all the characters in a certain way. Reading the Karen Jay Fowler's characters' views of them was quite shocking, in a nice kind of way, becuase they were perceived very differently from the way I see them.

I think this is a fun way to write literary criticism. I am such an admirer of Jane Austen that I have ploughed through several "professional literary criticisms" of her books, mainly because she did not write enough of them to satisfy me and I wanted more. But these tomes were written in the dead hand with which "professionals" ignore the reader who loves the subject and wants more depth in favour of the coded obscurity of impressing fellow-specialists (scientific research paper, anyone?).

Other novels are whacky and borrow well-known characters from novels for their plots. (Can't think of any examples just now apart from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and that movie about H G Wells in Los Angeles or somewhere, niether of which I count.) I'm not too keen on this approach either.

The Jane Austen Book Club approach is a potentially fruitful one. As Mapeletree7 says in her excellent review, the book is about a group of people who meet every so often to discuss a Jane Austen novel. So you get a double offering of a novel plus an analysis of the Austen oeuvre as seen by the characters in the book. If you haven't read Austen, it doesn't matter too much.

Thanks, Mapletree7 for making me remember this. I didn't think the Jane Austen Book Club was a particularly memorable book, but I did like the Austen novel bits. I wonder if there are other books that use this approach?

Originally posted at Petrona on 6 April 2006. There are several suggestions of and discussion about books using the critique apporach in the comments to that post.

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