(It's halfway though the Everything Austen Challenge and I've just now finished my first book, but I'm not giving up yet…)
I began reading The Jane Austen Book Club because I was losing focus reading Pride and Prejudice. I love Pride and Prejudice so I couldn't figure it out. This book made me remember that I love Jane Austen and now I'm excited to get back to P&P.
For the one person who hasn't read it, the JABC is about 5 women (and 1 man) of varying ages and personalities. They meet once a month for 6 months to discuss one novel. During these discussions we learn more about one of the characters. There was less Jane Austen in the book than I expected, but I liked what I found instead. Life goes on for the JABC participants. They fall in love, out of love, grieve for lost love ones, and continue finding out who exactly they are. But they kept reading the books and meeting through it all.
I love the reverence that each of the characters (except maybe Grigg) has for Jane Austen. It's amazing how much she can affect us 200 years later. Aside from Shakespeare what other English author is so loved?
My favorite passages:
"Jocelyn turned out to like fiddling about with the original story no better than Prudie did. The great thing about books was the solidity of the written word. You might change and your reading might change as a result, but the book remained whatever it had always been. A good book was surprising the first time through, less so the second. The movies, as everyone knew, had no respect for this." p. 82
"From the sound of it, no one who'd known Grigg since infancy could have doubted he was born to be a heroine." p. 152
"There was something appealing in thinknig of a character with a secret life that her author knew nothing about. Slipping off while the author's back was turned, to find love in her own way. Showing up just in time to deliver the next bit of dialogue with an innocent face. If Sylvia were a character in a book, that's the kind of character she'd want to be." p. 171
Everyone brings their own life experiences to their reading and a few things came to me while I was reading.
There was one section near the beginning when the book discusses how divorce affects adult children. How they merely have their Christmases ruined. My parents announced that they were getting a divorce last summer after 31 years of marriage. And it's a weird thing because I don't live near either of them and I didn't at the time they split up so part of me never really had to deal with it the way I would have had this happened 10 years ago. It's strange going home because they sold the house I grew up in and the family feels so small. Sometimes I get homesick for something that doesn't exist anymore, but usually I just go on with my life. [However, I am spending Thanksgiving in Boston with Dad and Christmas in Michigan with Mom and Ben's parents.]
Prudie discusses how her mother used to convinve her she'd done things that she hadn't actually done. She had trouble remembering which things she actually did and which were just stories. My dad does the same thing to a lesser degree. He tells me stories of all the places he took me when I was too small to remember but others tell me some of them didn't actually happen. In a similar vein, we got our first video camera (a 20 pound contraption in the 1980s that only my dad could lift) when I was 6. He made me and my brother reenact the first 6 and 4 years of our life to make up for it.
I guess this book made me think of my parents.
Final Thought: All Austen addicts should read this. Also, am I the only one that has a red cover for this book?