Five women and one man create a Jane Austen book club where they pour over her works. During the six months it takes to read all of Austen’s books, each of the club members faces challenges and excitement in their day-to-day lives. Marriages are put to the test, love affairs take flight, and love happens. In this book, Karen Joy Fowler takes her readers into the world of these six people and shows the ups and downs of modern relationships.
Okay. Here’s my honest opinion: I couldn’t stand this book.
The book was written like an old maid was at the typewriter with some dusty parchment and typing with one finger at a time. It was as if Fowler was trying to imitate Jane Austen’s timeless narration style and completely failed in her attempt to do so.
I get it: the women of the book club are in their 30’s to 60’s and that type of writing voice is what Fowler was trying for. Someone seasoned and wise…But, quite frankly, the tone just annoyed me until no end. It was condescending, old, and outdated. Like moldy, yellowed lace from a wooden trunk in a dusty attic. Ick.
And what was with her using the words “we” and “us” all the time? None of the six people were our narrators. None of them. Instead of reading a hard copy, I listened to the audio version of the book, so when Fowler used “we” and “us,” I had to look up who, exactly, was narrating the story. Turns out, it was just her narrator’s voice.
It made me feel like one of those men in that old children’s book, “Six Foolish Fishermen.”
Essentially, the six fishermen count everyone at the end of the day to make sure everyone is safe. Well, each time they count and re-count, they forget to count themselves, so they assume there are only five people there instead of six, and therefore: someone must have drowned.
That feeling of annoyance and foolishness at the fact that they forget to count themselves is exactly how I felt every time Fowler used the words “us” or “we.” As I read, I kept thinking to myself, “Who is ‘us’ or ‘we?'” and “Am I forgetting someone in the book club?”
In addition to this poor choice of writing style, the story itself was severely lacking. Since there were six people to follow, I found it difficult to invest in any of the characters. None of them were developed properly and each was more and more dislikable as the story went on.
The question I now ask myself is this: how was this a New York Times bestseller?