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The Jane Austen Book Clubby Karen Joy Fowler
"I'm instinctively wary of genetic engineering, but Karen Fowler may have produced a literary equivalent of the elusive Super Tomato. The Jane Austen Book Club is modern chick lit spliced with genes from 19th-century romantic comedy. In fact, Fowler has so craftily designed this new novel to appeal to smart, middle-aged, book-buying women that one regards its demographic precision cynically. I'm sorry to report that it's delightful." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"The Jane Austen Book Club has received a lot of accolades, but frankly I don't get what all the hubbub is about. The 'postmodern'...fuss seems to be based entirely on Fowler's neat trick of writing individual story lines that mimic Austen novels....Is it asking too much for authors to lose the 'gee-whiz' factor and write organically? I can only assume that Fowler's book is doing so well because the title contains the words 'book club.' Her book is cheeky and cutesy and terribly shrewd. In this age of Oprah, it practically markets itself." Sacha Zimmerman, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Nothing ever moves in a straight line in Karen Joy Fowler's fiction, and in her latest, the complex dance of modern love has never been so devious or so much fun.
Six Californians join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they meet, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her finely sighted eye for the frailties of human behavior and her finely tuned ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.
Dedicated Austenites will delight in unearthing the echoes of Austen that run through the novel, but most readers will simply enjoy the vision and voice that, despite two centuries of separation, unite two great writers of brilliant social comedy.
"Fowler's fifth novel (after PEN/Faulkner award finalist Sister Noon) features her trademark sly wit, quirky characters and digressive storytelling, but with a difference: this one is book club — ready, complete with mock-serious 'questions for discussion' posed by the characters themselves. The plot here is deceptively slim: five women and one enigmatic man meet on a monthly basis to discuss the novels of Jane Austen, one at a time. As they debate Marianne's marriage to Brandon and whether or not Charlotte Lucas is gay, they reveal nothing so much as their own 'private Austen(s)': to Jocelyn, an unmarried 'control freak,' the author is the consummate matchmaker; to solitary Prudie, she's the supreme ironist; to the lesbian Allegra, she's the disingenuous defender of the social caste system, etc. The book club's conversation is variously astute, petty, obvious and funny, but no one stays with it: the characters nibble high-calorie desserts, sip margaritas and drift off into personal reveries. Like Austen, Fowler is a subversive wit and a wise observer of human interaction of all stripes ('All parents wanted an impossible life for their children — happy beginning, happy middle, happy ending. No plot of any kind'). She's also an enthusiastic consumer of popular culture, offsetting the heady literary chat with references to Sex and the City, Linux and 'a rug that many of us recognized from the Sundance catalog.' Though the 21 pages of quotations from Austen's family, friends and critics seems excessive, the novelty of Fowler's package should attract significant numbers of book club members, not to mention the legions of Janeites craving good company and happy endings. Agent, Wendy Weil. BOMC, Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild featured alternate. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Bright, engaging, dexterous literary entertainment for everyone, though with many special treats and pleasures for Janeites." Kirkus Reviews
"Fowler, a captivating and good-hearted satirist, exuberantly pays homage to and matches wits with Jane Austen in her most pleasurable novel to date." Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[I]f there was ever an invitation to settle down with a cup of Earl Grey and a smart story with literature at its heart, this is the one." Anita Sama, USA Today
"It's just as hard to explain quite why The Jane Austen Book Club is so wonderful. But that it is wonderful will soon be widely recognized, indeed, a truth universally acknowledged." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
"Fowler's shrewdest, funniest fiction yet, a novel about how we engage with a novel. You don't have to be a student of Jane Austen to enjoy it, either." Patricia T. O'Conner, The New York Times Book Review
"[T]errific....Start quoting a few of Fowler's puckish lines and it becomes damnably difficult to stop. But there's more going on here than great comedy....Karen Joy Fowler deserves every success this savvy, episodic but chamois-smooth novel can bring." David Kipen, San Francisco Chronicle
"In Ms. Fowler's wit, the way she renders the pratfalls of emotion and desire...she comes closest to her model. She is weaker with plot: some of the club members' own stories drag or else seem feverishly forced." Richard Eder, The New York Times
"A luxuriant pleasure!" Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
"I love this book! I haven't read Austen for years, Fowler's story worked like a charm." Sue Grafton, author of Q is for Quarry
Nothing ever moves in a straight line in Fowler's fiction, and in her latest, the complex dance of modern love has never been so devious or so much fun. In this newest work, six Californians join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they meet, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens.
From the New York Times–bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club, the story of an American family, middle class in middle America, ordinary in every way but one. But that exception is the beating heart of this extraordinary novel.
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she tells us. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”
Rosemary was not yet six when Fern was removed. Over the years, she’s managed to block a lot of memories. She’s smart, vulnerable, innocent, and culpable. With some guile, she guides us through the darkness, penetrating secrets and unearthing memories, leading us deeper into the mystery she has dangled before us from the start. Stripping off the protective masks that have hidden truths too painful to acknowledge, in the end, “Rosemary” truly is for remembrance.
About the Author
Karen Joy Fowler, a PEN/Faulkner and Dublin IMPAC nominee, is the author of the novels Sister Noon, Sarah Canary, and The Sweetheart Season, as well as the story collection Black Glass. She lives in Davis, California.
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