Karen Joy Fowler, ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’

As something of a Jane Austen enthusiast, I was torn between excitement and dread before reading this book. Its premise – a group of six people meeting once a month to discuss each of Austen’s novels – was an interesting one, but was it going to some kind of slushy romance-fest that Austen herself would have balked at? As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.

The Jane Austen Book Club is an appealing, intelligent read that manages not to take itself too seriously, while still retaining a suitable amount of necessary respect for Austen. It must be said that you don’t need to be an Austen lover to enjoy it – as the story progresses, the focus shifts away from her novels and on to the individual lives of the group’s members – but for those aficionados like myself, Karen Joy Fowler has provided a wonderful appendix that gathers together the opinions on Jane Austen of a series of figures, ranging from Joseph Conrad (who can’t understand what the fuss is about) all the way to J. K. Rowling.

It’s not a particularly groundbreaking work, and, given that some of the characters are considerably less interesting than others, it lags at times; for the most part, though, it’s very enjoyable and I recommend Fowlers book for a read.