"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

I'm partial to books with multiple character's stories. The plot of one person is fine, but the plot of many is better. I like to follow the evolution of each persons's situation, and this read did not disappoint in that category.  One thing I found bothersome
is the story is told from the point of 'we' throughout, but you never find out who the narrator is. Who the heck does 'we' include besides the five characters initially introduced? You get a personal snapshot of each one but you never find out who is speaking. Apparently it's 'five plus the ubiquitous we'. It's a little irritating. Also, while each character's story is charming and thought provoking, albeit some more so than others, there wasn't quite enough of it; which is probably the sign of a great book/author- you're left wanting.

The character that spoke to me most profoundly was Sylvia. I don't know if it was her strength or her heartbreak or the combination. In the first 1/4 of the book Sylvia says: "You know how Daniel used to drive me crazy? It turns out I was very happily married. For thirty-two years. I miss him like my heart has been torn from my chest. What are the odds?" That line was slightly haunting, or maybe daunting is better, for me. How true it is, that we don't really know what we have or how much we enjoyed it until it's gone?

This book alludes a lot to the 'falling' part of love. Not blatantly, but every character in it is in some stage of either falling in or falling out of love. At the end of it all my parting thought was how grateful I am to not be falling, either in or out. I have already fallen and landed solidly in the comfort of my greatest fortune. We have passed the point in our conversations when every sentence begins with 'I have', 'I did', 'I was'. Now we speak in terms of 'We have', 'We will', 'We are'.

My favorite Jane Austen is Persuasion. Why? Second chances? If it's meant to be, it will be- interference be damned? All of those things, and others. My favorite lines in the book come towards the end when Anne and Captain Harville debate which gender relinquishes love first.

 'Yes. We certainly do not forget you as soon as you forget us. It is, perhaps, our fate rather than our merit. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You are forced on exertion. You have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately, and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions.'

Captain Harville:
'No, no, it is not man's nature. I will not allow it to be more man's nature than woman's to be inconstant and forget those they do love, or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe in a true analogy between our bodily frames and our mental; and that as our bodies are the strongest, so are our feelings; capable of bearing most rough usage, and riding out the heaviest weather.'

You will find an official plot line description at:

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