When thinking about book titles, you need to think about what your target audience will be interested in, while also conveying the story or message within the pages. So, if someone is looking in the general fiction section of a bookstore, you can generally assume they are interested in fiction, books and stories about people. They might belong to a book club, or just read on their lunch breaks. They may absolutely adore classics like Jane Austen, or prefer more contemporary novels. What you can assume, is that a title such as The Jane Austen Book Club is going to catch a few eyes. Well, that’s how I came to have a copy of Karen Joy Fowler’s book anyway.
The book tells of six people who have come together with a single task; to read a Jane Austen novel each month and to discuss their thoughts. Some are old friends, some are acquaintances. Others, have never met before. But all have been brought together because they are in need of something in their lives. They need Austen.
Throughout the six months of the book club, the characters, guided by Jane Austen, learn to be more compassionate, patient, loving and strong-willed human beings. By the end of the six months, they have all accepted love into their hearts and lives. Which begs the question, can Jane Austen really do this?
There is a reason we continue to read these novels about love and life from the perspective of similar white, middle-class women in a certain time frame, who are all searching for love (or at the very least, a husband). There is a reason, and it is not simply, ‘because it is the thing to do’. No, we read Jane Austen for the same reason we read any other classical writer; because they are still relevant. If the books still have a lesson to teach, readers will continue to flock to its pages.
What a tragedy that we have not yet learnt to love and must continue to seek out Miss Austen to tell us. But what a great opportunity for The Jane Austen Book Club. The book stays true to its inspiration and gives us a guide to life, love and every part in between. You do not need to have read the six Jane Austen novels to follow the story for the debates are often (as is the way in life) from the perspective of the one voicing an opinion. And as we have seen their life and understand their point of view, we can understand the Austen novel being discussed.
If, like me, you enjoy reading fiction, admire book clubs and have at least heard of Jane Austen, then there is something within these pages to interest you. But, like the novel itself, I feel it prudent to let the lady herself have the last words;
The mere habit of learning to love is the thing.
Jane Austen, 1775 – 1817