Karen Joy Fowler, a PEN/Faulkner and California Book Award winner, is the author of six novels (two of them New York Times bestsellers) and four short story collections. She has been a Dublin IMPAC nominee, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.
With its many section breaks and point-of-view shifts, Fowler's newest book (following Sister Noon) poses significant challenges for a single narrator. But stage actress Schraf overcomes these obstacles with ease, her voice taking on just a touch of haughtiness for the chapters told from the "we" perspective and then switching back to an unassuming tone for the third-person sections. It may take listeners a short while to grasp the story's structure, but once they do, they'll be hopelessly snared by this witty look at the lives and loves of six people, all members of Central Valley, California's "all-Jane-Austen-all-the-time book club." As the members discuss Austen's stance on marriage, social status and love, the narrative meanders, touching on defining moments in the characters' lives and then drifting back to describe their current dilemmas: single, middle-aged Jocelyn has never been in love; French teacher Prudie can't stop thinking about men other than her husband; chatty Bernadette has decided to "let herself go"; warm-hearted Sylvia still loves her soon-to-be-ex-husband; emotional Allegra has left her girlfriend; and sci-fi aficionado Grigg is infatuated with someone who may not share his affection. Through subtle alterations of tone and inflection, Schraf neatly conveys the emotions and idiosyncrasies of each character, from Prudie's impossibly pretentious French asides to Bernadette's airy, endless storytelling. Playful and intelligent, this audiobook embodies the best of both the written and aural worlds. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 22). (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fowler's book, for all intents and purposes, is a character study of six people who meet regularly over several months to discuss six of Austen's works. Jocelyn, in her 50s and never married, is the originator of the club, a control freak who handpicked all the members; Sylvia, her good friend, is in a funk because her husband of 32 years has just left her for another woman; Sylvia's daughter, Allegra, is an attractive 30-year-old lesbian who recently broke up with her lover; Prudie is a twentysomething high school French teacher; the much-married Bernadette, 67, is now single; and Grigg, in his 40s, would love to get married. The group sits around drinking and making aimless, often pointless, conversation about Austen, and into these light, roundabout discussions Fowler intertwines some clever and funny stories. There is not much depth to the characters, the plots are weak, and little happens until the last chapter. Read by Kimberly Schraf, this atypical but deliberate novel is recommended for larger public libraries.-Carol Stern, Glen Cove P.L., NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Praise for The Jane Austen Book Club
"Ms. Fowler, an original and unexpectedly voiced novelist, takes her own place among the shining responders. Not just with comments of her own, though there are some excellent ones, but with the entire playful structure of her new novel."--Richard Eder, The New York Times "If I could eat this nove, I would...A luxuriant pleasure!"--Alice Sebold "It's natural to approach a novel titled The Jane Austen Book Club with caution, but Karen Joy Fowler's funny, erudite nvoel proved to be a surprise and a delight, a tribute to Austen that manages to capture her spirit."--The Boston Globe "Karen Joy Fowler creates a novel that is so winning, so touching, so delicately, slyly witty that admirers of Persuasion and Emma will simply sigh with happiness."--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World "Start quoting a few of Fowler's puckish lines and it becomes damnably difficult to stop...The Jane Austen Book Club amounts to a witty meditation on how the books we choose, choose us too."--San Francisco Chronicle "The Jane Austen Book Club offers a sparkling rumination on the act of reading itself and how beloved books can serve as refuge, self-definition, snobbish barricades against other people or pathways out of the old self to a wider world. [It is] a terrific comic novel about a closed society merrily transforming itself by reading."--Maureen Corrigan, NPR's All Things Considered "[Fowler] does so terrific a job of bringing her characters to life that Austen's work falls away like a husk. It's an impressive feat of homage, since Fowler essentially borrowsAusten's great themes...and makes them her own. Miss Austen would be proud."--The Denver Post