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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