Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: The Jane Austen Book Club

I'm going to have to take a break from color week today. The sun didn't come out at all yesterday, and it looks as if we'll have similar weather today. So, it's hard for me to get a decent shot of anything. Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with something blue. But for have some pretty strong negative opinions about this book....Boy did I ever hate this book.

Six people-five women, one man-meet to discuss Jane Austen's works. The book club spans the course of six months, with each month (or chapter) focusing primarily on one person. Only six months? Somehow it seemed much, much longer.

Before I go on, I feel I should make it clear that I've never really been able to get into any of Jane Austen's actual work. I've never finished any of her books and I've never seen any of the movies based on them. I know that makes me sound like an ignorant plebe, but really, it's just not my thing. In fact, I'm not a fan of nineteenth century literature in general. Again, maybe I'm a doofus, but I like what I like.

That being said, I get what the author of this book was trying to do. I understand that each of the six main characters were supposed to correlate with one of Austen's characters. The problem was that I just didn't care. I found all of these people, the women especially, to be incredibly boring and self possessed and the descriptions of their mostly petty problems to be quite tedious.

The one character I even remotely liked was Grigg, and I think the only reason I did like him, was because all the women in the group were initially so bitchy towards him. I pitied poor Grigg. Here he is, the new guy in town. He only knows one person, a lady significantly older than he. She invites him to her book club and he goes out on a limb and accepts even though he's never read any Jane Austen. Then once he gets there, they treat him badly, criticizing everything from his opinions to the specific copy of the book he has. What a bunch of bitchy cows!

In June, Grigg hosted the monthly meeting. The following are descriptions of the food that he prepared:

Grigg had laid out a green salad made with dried cranberries and candied walnuts. There were cheeses and pepper crackers. A lovely white wine from the Bonny Doon vineyard. It was a respectable spread although the cheese plate had a snow scene and was obviously meant to be used only at Christmas and probably for cookies. And the wineglasses didn't match.

He'd made a cheesecake. The crust was obviously store bought.

From what little I know about Jane Austen, this type of commentary was popular in her books. I find it nauseating and I think it makes the characters seem like a bunch of jerks. Plus, at times it just felt weird and forced for a modern day novel. For instance, this scene when the ladies meet Grigg's sister Cat:

Cat had an open, outdoorish face. She looked her age and then some. But the sun was full on her, which hardly one woman in a thousand could stand the test of. It was obviously a good blood line. Both brother and sister had good teeth, neat little ears, deep chests, long limbs.

Really? Neat little ears? Deep chests? What does that even mean and who thinks like that? These types of descriptions and observations just seemed so strange and out of place to me that they clouded my ability to even enjoy the narrative. No problem, since there pretty much wasn't one. When it's done well (like The Poisonwood Bible), I really love the idea of having a chapter devoted to each character. It can keep things interesting. In this instance it was just choppy and the various story lines never really went anywhere.

It took me way too long to get through this book. In fact, the last fifty pages alone took about three days. By the last ten pages, not only did I hate the book, but I was physically angry at it. It just seemed to go on and on and the thought of picking it up again made me clench my fists.

When this book first came out it was a huge hit, so I know some of you've probably read it. If so, did you like it? Is my hatred for it primarily based on the fact that I'm not an Austen fan? Please, be honest.


It's Me, Theresa said...

*laughs* I have no idea, I've never really been into Jane Austen either... but I loved your description of this book! At least now I know not to waste any money on it. I think they made this into a movie too, didn't they?

It's Me, Theresa said...

P.S.- The closest I've come to reading anything by Jane Austen was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies... and I enjoyed it because of the zombies.

Tammie said...

yeah.they did. i read that its a bit more enjoyable than the book. but i dont know if i want to risk it.

Tammie said...

and i totally want to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. but yeah, cause of the zombies.

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

I got this book as a gift shortly after it came out so I hadn't read any reviews of it. I'm not a big Jane Austen fan but read the book on a business trip. I can tell you exactly where I sat on the plane while reading it and remember there was one guy in the book club but beyond that I have zero recall on the book...maybe that alone is telling.

R.H. Ducky said...

thank you for the comments on this book and on jane austen in general. i've never completely read a jane austen novel. i really thought i was the only one. so if you're a doofus, at least you aren't alone ;)

i saw the wasn't horrible from what i remember. and honestly i didn't know it was based on a book. i generally prefer the book to the movie...but maybe that wouldn't be the case here.

Lia said...

Never read it. Don't think I've ever read any Austen. Don't think I want to either. Especially after your review. Oh yeah, and you crack me up.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Great review, saved me time and money both of which I have so little of these days. It did sound like a good premise for a book.
But your paragraph of Grigg's sister was a hoot and I am sure it wasn't meant to be. I dont' think I would have enjoyed this either.

I have never read a Jane Austen novel but did like the movie Emma that was supposed to be based on the novel by J.A.
I think I will pass on trying to read them now.

I just said to hubby that i was going to revisit some books that I absolutely loved when I was in my teens and very early 20's. I want to see if I will like them now.
1st one is The Great Gatsby.

Dani said...

Consider me part of the ignorant plebe crowd. Like you, I'm not into Austen or the movies.

You have confirmed all the reasons this is so.

Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

I have Poisonwood Bible, but haven't started it. Maybe now I will.

Good review post. (was that your intention?) I like that you used excerpts. My mom used to tell me to read aloud from the middle of the book for a few pages before committing to read it. It's the only way to get the feel of the writing to see if you'd enjoy it.


Tammie said...

mag: yeah that says a lot. to me, most of this book is very forgettable.

ducky: i thought i was the only austen hater. it seems we arent alone at all!

lia: glad you got a laugh.

peggy: i thought the premise was good too, which was why i chose it even though im not an austen fan. there was just something very off putting about the whole book.

stephanie: i think your moms advice is pretty good. i may have to try it out.
and the poisonwood bible is so very good. i hope you enjoy it.

kraftykash said...

Ive never even heard of it. Sounds extremely boring. Im stuck on not finding a good book at this point in my life. When that happens, I stay busy with other things. We did watch New Moon today. The girl is home sick. :( Hope the sun comes out tomorrow.

hester said...

I'm also not a Jane Austen fan I've never been able to make it through more than a few pages of Pride and Prejudice - so dull!

I don't know how you can grit your teeth and push through books you hate, Tammie. We appreciate your dedication though as we get to laugh at your reviews!

Like Margaret/Peg/Peggy I like revisiting old favourites and just reread Daphne du Maurier's "My Cousin Rachel". I loved it even more second time around.

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

I have thought about reading this book. Picked it up....Put it down. I don't know, it just doesn't appeal. But, I want it to.

You convinced me to pass.

Daphne said...

Oh, too funny. I, like you, love "bad book" reviews. I did read this book and apparently I liked it just fine (see review:, although I barely remember it and I do recall being somewhat annoyed by some of the women. We had a lively and somewhat outrageous bookclub discussion about this book. Some people really did NOT love it, for some of the very reasons you described. I reread my review now and I'm so enthusiastic about it, but it's funny that in retrospect I barely remember anything except for that christmas-tray you quoted, and also that I found Grigg sort of amusing (and also annoying). It must have suited my mood at the time. :) But then, I kind of heart Austen, so there's that.

Mandy said...

hmmn, i have thought of reading that but never picked it up, i did see the movie, which wasn't very good.

Penny said...

I would have to say I'm not an Austen fan either...and based on your description I won't be running out to get this book. The excerpts you put in make everyone sound like a bunch of douchebags and I think it would just annoy me! My sister lent me her copy of The Dome, and I havne't even opened it...I guess I've been too busy watching America's Next Top Model.

victoria said...

oh no, no, no, no! I am a horrible Jane Austin fan. It was part of my single, childless, thirty-something cliche' period. I must have watched Pride and Prejudice 17,000 times during that phase. With wine ... and chocolate ... and Valium. ;-)

I have this movie coming via Netflix. I'm not expecting it to be great.

I'm impressed that you finished the book. I never push myself to do anything, especially read (let alone finish) a bad book. Zero discipline.

Meyser said...

I like the costumes?
I've never read Austen. I wouldn't consider reading this book eather (especially after your wonderful review!). And I'm really getting stubborn, bitchy and malicious with books when they have "bestseller" on the cover!

melissa s. said...

I have no interest in reading this book, but I do want to see the movie just so I can see what "neat little ears and deep chests" look like.

Not Your Aunt B said...

One more book marked off my list. I couldn't even make it through the excerpts you posted

Not Hannah said...

So, my comment from this post totally went away, and it was long and scathing, even though I LOVE Austen, because TJABC sucks donkey butts, but what I really want to say is Oh. My. Stars. I love your new header.