Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


**The Jane Austen Book Club

by Karen Joy Fowler

Reviewed June 5, 2004.
A Marian Wood Book (Putnam), New York, 2004.  288 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F FOW).

I loved the idea of this book.  It follows a group of people who meet monthly to discuss the books of Jane Austen.  The idea was fun, and I enjoyed the discussions about Jane Austen’s books.  I did a paper on Jane Austen when I was in college.  I spent the month before the paper reading all of the novels, then wrote the paper the night before it was due.  So it was fun to read about these books I loved.

What I didn’t like was that I would have preferred a book that tried for Jane Austen’s tone.  Early on, we hear about a distasteful sexual episode in the past life of one of the book club members.  That sort of thing gives the book a very different flavor from a Jane Austen novel.

I didn’t find myself caring too much about very many of the characters, or even feeling that I knew them very well.  The narrator often used “we,” but it wasn’t clear which of the characters was speaking for the group, although it was clear that they all had very different viewpoints.  That kept me a bit at a distance.

All the same, it was an entertaining book, and I did love the idea.  I think my favorite part was that, at the end, the author included a section on what different people have said about Jane Austen over the years.  I also loved a little section where each member of the book club gives discussion questions about the book you’ve just read.  They’re great questions, and it’s fun to see the characters’ personalities and interests reflected in them.  They would make this book a great book club selection itself, though it would help if most of the members have read some Jane Austen.

Reviews of books by Jane Austen:
Pride and Prejudice
Northanger Abbey

Reviews of other books related to Jane Austen:
Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, edited by Jennifer Crusie
A Jane Austen Education, by William Deresiewicz
Sense and Sensibility, by Joanna Trollope
Northanger Abbey, by Val McDermid
Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith
An Assembly Such As This:  Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Book 1, by Pamela Aidan
Duty and Desire:  Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Book 2, by Pamela Aidan
These Three Remain:  Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, Book 3, by Pamela Aidan
Jane Austen in Scarsdale, by Paula Marantz Cohen
Austenland, by Shannon Hale
Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale
Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen, by Fay Weldon
Jane and the Man of the Cloth, by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Wandering Eye, by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House, by Stephanie Barron
Jane and the Ghosts of Netley, by Stephanie Barron
Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James
Pride and Prescience, by Carrie A. Bebris
Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie A. Bebris
North by Northanger, by Carrie A. Bebris
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
The Stars We Steal, by Alexa Donne
Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl
Pride, by Ibi Zoboi
First Impressions, by Marilyn Sachs

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rightsreserved.

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