Karen Joy Fowler: The Jane Austen Book Club

 

2004

ISBN: 0-141-02026-1

Jane Austen was paid a measly £110 (equivalent of £3735.60 in today’s currency) for the copyright of Pride and Prejudice.   It was criminal Austen was paid so little and that the passage time has robbed the copyright holder the ability  to prevent the travesty of this book.  Without riding on Austen’s coattails, Fowler’s book would be an inconsequential piece of middle American pulp.

Six books, six chapters, six characters.  Of course, Persuasion is to be the last book discussed and our estranged couple will reconcile. Cognisant of the often repeated criticism that Austen rarely gave an insight into her characters’ childhood, Fowler makes the pointed effort of providing the defining moment of each of her characters’ childhood .  We were bored to the point of tears.

Where this book disappointed the most was its failure to provide any new insight into Austen’s works.  Yes, we realised that this book is suppose to be light-hearted entertainment not an academic critique. Freed of convention, all Fowler can offer us on Mansfield Park is.

No one loved Austen more than Prudie, ask anyone.  But even Prudie found the character of Fanny Price hard going.  Fanny was the prig in your first grade class who never, ever misbehaved and who told the teacher when everyone else did.  How to keep the movie audience from loathing her?…So Austen had given all Mary all her own wit and sparkle, and none of it to Fanny.  (p83)

This is proceeded by her criticism of Patricia Rozema’s Mansfield Park.  We all know that as an adaptation it failed miserable, in part to the political agenda it was ruthlessly pursuing but principally it dismissed Austen’s Fanny.  Fowler does the same thing without a hint of realising the irony of this.  Did Fowler even read Mansfield Park or just skim the Cliff Notes?  Fanny knows how to keep secrets.

As for other insights, here is Fowler’s revelation on Pride and Prejudice,, What I was thinking was that Charlotte Lucas might be gay. Remember when she says she’s not romantic like Lizzie? (p.171)  Ah no.  What Charlotte says is ‘I am not romantic you know.’ Big difference.

Read the original  novels and skip the 23rd derivative.

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