Going clubbing: The Jane Austen Book Club

British countryside

The features change but the beauty of the British countryside remains the same. Image courtesy of Jusben, Morguefile.

I’d seen the movie, so it was time to give Karen Joy Fowler’s book a chance when I picked it up at a book exchange.

Part of the fun of watching the movie or seeing the book is figuring out the main characters and which character in British author Jane Austen’s novels they most resemble. Allegra is easy; she’s Sense and Sensibility’s thrill-seeking Marianne. (Is it a coincidence that Allegra’s name resembles “allegro,” meaning “quick and lively” in music?) Jocelyn is Emma, the matchmaker.

Others are harder to figure out. Grigg in the book is older than Grigg in the movie, so that took a bit of mental adjustment. Bernadette reminds me of Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility and Prudie seems like Miss Bates of Emma. Prudie doesn’t rattle on like Miss Bates, but she’s constantly quoting French to seem more sophisticated and confusing her listeners in the process. Prudie seems slow to realize what is socially acceptable.

I like the general concept of adapting Jane Austen’s characters to their modern-day parallels. That’s part of Jane Austen’s genius — even if you didn’t live in her era, you can still relate to her characters in some way when many of them are like you and the people you know. That’s the secret of great literature: it teaches you something about the human condition as you’re entertained by reading the book.

I like Henry Tilney of Northanger Abbey — now there’s a guy with class. Due to a misunderstanding, his dad kicks out guest Catherine Moreland in the middle of the night, leaving the poor kid to make the 70-mile trip home by herself. That was no mean feat for Catherine to get home by herself; there were all sorts of potential hazards for her. Luckily, she makes it and Henry comes by later to see if she got there all right. And true to a Jane Austen hero, Henry professes his love for her as well.

Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth of Persuasion are another couple I like. Her family members push her around but she has a quiet strength and intelligence. Captain Frederick Wentworth is the classic story of making good despite the fact that others expected otherwise; so fun to see him prove his critics wrong. Oh, yeah!

My all-time favorite actors for Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth are Amanda Root and Cieran Hinds. (See KDRainstorm’s marvelous YouTube video below.) So many good moments in that movie — my favorite is when Anne sees Frederick for the first time since their breakup; the camera shows her hand curling and tightening around the chair which so perfectly expresses her tension at seeing Wentworth again after many years.

Readers who know Jane Austen: Which character of Jane Austen do you like the best or most identify with? Let’s talk.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Going clubbing: The Jane Austen Book Club

  1. Oh yes, Anne gets my vote. Her principals are rewarded, especially having to put up with her ninnysome family.

  2. I feel so … different … because despite all my best attempts, I STILL don’t like Jane Austen. I am sorry. Really. I have given it more than one good shot.

  3. Jaclyn

    Henry Tilney is a great Austen hero! He might be my favorite of Austen’s men, but I’m not sure. Mr. Knightley is pretty wonderful too.

    My favorite Austen heroine, and the one I most identify with, is Elinor Dashwood. S&S was my first Austen and I felt akin to Elinor right away. She’s serious and reserved, sometimes too much so, and bookish like me. I always wished she had ended up with Colonel Brandon. I felt that he was too good for Marianne, and Elinor deserved better than Edward. The one time I disagreed with Dear Aunt Jane!

    I also love Anne Elliott, especially now that I’m older. I tend to get pushed around by my family (working on it) and her quiet strength is inspiring. And my heart always skips several beats at “I am half agony, half hope…”

    • You just gotta love a guy who pens words like that. I’m still hoping for a version of Austen that shows the original breakup of Anne and Frederick, because I don’t think anybody’s done that yet. “Persuasion” would make a great modern adaptation too. Set in that gorgeous British countryside, of course.

      • Jaclyn

        That would be wonderful! I’m sure the modern adaptation is coming via The Austen Project, but those have been hit or miss. I hope Persuasion is a hit…

      • I’d like to see it as a movie adaptation. Something along the lines of “Clueless” for Emma and “From Prada to Nada” for Sense & Sensibility.

  4. Can I put a vote in for the more recent Sally Hawkins version of Persuasion, my daughter is captivated by this version and I have been drawn in as well.

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