August 19, 2004

It's all about Jane

Readers are going gaga over Jane these days...and with good reason. After all, her books contain all the elements of a good read; satire, romance, deception, with a bit of mystery thrown in for good measure. Although Jane Austen may not of been the original princess of "chick-lit" (Fanny Burney 1752-1840 had a bit of a jump on Jane), she's certainly beloved by writers and readers alike. The past few years have seen almost every one of her novels translated to the big screen and now the trend in publishing seems to be all about Jane as well.

If you're a Jane-ite and you've already read Carol Shields' compact, portable bio of Miss Austen, then you might try Karen Joy Fowler's, The Jane Austen Book Club. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago, breaking my rule of "no novels during the rewrite". (It was all in the name of research...researching the market, researching another book that makes use of quotations from Jane Austen novels, etc.)
I liked it. A breezy, fast read with a wonderful conceit. Each chapter centers around a different member of a fictitious Jane Austen book club. What was refreshing was the fact that Ms. Fowler didn't let the format of the novel drag her writing into a formulaic pattern. The stories the author weaves around each of the characters and their picks for a favourite Austen novel are descriptive, intriguing and filled with the complex, and often comical workings of interpersonal relationships. My only complaint was that I felt her telling of the single male character in the club was a bit thin. He's no Mr. Darcy...but that's very likely the case that Ms. Fowler is trying to make. (A point I completely understand...The main character in my novel suffers from wishing/wanting at least one man in her rural village to have the wit and romantic notions of a Jane Autsen hero.)
My favourite part of the book comes towards the end in the form of a gift one character gives to another. I won't say what it is...but if such a thing ever exists, I'll be first in line to get one! (someone should get on it and start mass producing the things)
Publisher's Lunch has already announced that the film rights have been sold!
congratulations to a sister Hoosier! Way to go, Karen.

As far as the popularity of the book goes...I have to say that the author (and some marketing guru at the publishing house?) have tapped into another trend...there is a whole section of extras at the end of the novel, just waiting for the reader like a director's cut, special edition, with all the outtakes and whistles- DVD. It includes reader's questions, a synopsis and history of Jane Austen's novels, and a slew of quotes about Miss Austen's works ranging from comments made by her family and friends to insights from modern writers. A publisher's dream...book club friendly to-boot.

If you just can't seem to get enough of Jane (and it seems that publishers are in that category)
then watch for other novels with Janeiana coming to a bookstore near you. One title I have heard is in the works is Jane Austen in Bocca. And yet another novel will feature a woman who happens upon letters exchanged between Jane Austen and a real Mr. Darcy. In searching out this literary mystery, the woman comes upon a male descendant of said Mr. Darcy and falls in love.

Who's" Your Jane Austen?

Who's Your Jane Austen?