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Jane Austen News – Issue 26

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?

 Jane Austen in Pakistan Goes From Strength to Strength    
There is Jane Austen News from PakistanWe hear that the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan is going from strength to strength. Good news indeed!

You may well have heard of Jane Austen societies in America, England and Australia, but one that’s less well known is the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan (JASP for short). The society was founded in Islamabad but now also has chapters in Karachi and Lahore and its members number over 800.

The society began in 2014 when Laaleen Khan, an ardent Austen fan since her childhood, decided to establish the society. JASP enjoys Jane Austen quizzes, dressing up in Regency costume, discussing her books, and playing cards. Khan recently explained online why she thinks Jane Austen is popular in Pakistan.

There are so many parallels between Austen’s Regency-era society and South Asian society today. The obsession with the marriage market, for one thing, complete with concern for reputation, eligibility, decorum, propriety and ancestry juxtaposed with elements of snobbery, misogyny and hypocrisy. We have our share of disapproving Lady Catherine de Bourgh-esque society aunties, rakish Wickhams and Willoughbys, pretentious Mrs Eltons and holier-than-thou Mr Collins types!

The society continues to grow and hopes to raise funds for literacy programmes in Pakistan through the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, founded by Caroline Jane Knight, Austen’s fifth great niece.

Austen School Room to Open in Reading

Abbey-GatewayA plan is underway to create a schoolroom in the place where Jane Austen went to school in Reading (she attended Mrs. La Tournelle’s boarding school between 1785 and 1786), as the Abbey Gate in The Forbury is to be restored thanks to a successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid.

A report to Reading Borough Council’s policy committee said that “Abbey Gate was where Jane Austen went to school and it is considered that this additional historical and literary association would be attractive to schools and could add depth and interest to the educational programme.”

We at the Jane Austen News are looking forward to seeing what the end result is!

A Holiday Let for Jane Austen Fans     
Goodnestone-Park-largeGoodnestone House in Kent has recently undergone a £2.5 million restoration that has turned the 1704 Queen Anne mansion into a smart holiday bolt-hole that sleeps 24. The reason Jane Austen fans might be interested in staying at Goodnestone is that it was the home of Sir Brook Bridges, the 3rd Baronet of Goodnestone, whose daughter Elizabeth Bridges married Jane’s brother Edward, and Jane would often walk to Goodnestone with the couple from their marital home in Rowley. It was also the double wedding at the nearby church of Edward and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s sister Sophia with William Deedes, that is said to have inspired the double wedding scene in Pride and Prejudice, which Jane started to write after a six-week visit to her brother in 1796.

But even putting the direct Austen connection aside, Goodnestone would make a wonderful location for an Austen adaptation. The house has  handsome Georgian features on one side and a grand Victorian Palladian-style portico on the other.  Inside the house can boast of 11 bathrooms and 12 bedrooms, named after family members, a library filled with leather-bound books, and grand living spaces. Outside there is rolling parkland, a vast walled garden, a cricket pitch, a croquet lawn and an arboretum.

Sounds idillic!

Books About Book Clubs     

The Jane Austen Book Club Karen Joy FowlerWhile browsing we came across an article linked to Karen Joy Fowler’s book, The Jane Austen Book Club. In the article was a great list of novels which also have plots that centre around the great institution of the book club.

  • The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley – Huntley journals her experiences teaching English in Kosovo Albanians in Prishtina and the book club her students form.
  • The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – the inspiring story of a son and his dying mother, who form a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close.
  • Dinner with Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich – six women drawn together by their love of literature rally around each other when painful truths and dark betrayals are revealed.
  • The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Pattillo – two things unite the ladies at Sweetgum Christian Church: their love of knitting and their passion for books.

We thought you, as fellow fans of reading, might be interested in checking a few out. Our thanks to Stacy Delano of the Stillwater News Press for the list.

From Reading Book Clubs to Colouring Book Clubs
maxresdefaultIn other book club news, the latest craze in South Florida is adult colouring book clubs, such as “Cool Colors Adult Coloring Group” and “Color of Calm: Adult Coloring and Relaxation”. The Delray Beach book club is the latest club to be established.

Erin Broemel, the Delray Beach library’s educational programs and volunteer manager says that, “you are in the moment when you are coloring. You are able to connect that way. It’s very mindful.”

And her favourite book to colour? Pride and Prejudice: A Colouring Classic. “In the coloring book, they highlight specific quotes or scenes that are memorable, and really showcase Austen’s style of writing. Coloring that book helps me relax after a long day, and be transported into the worlds of Jane Austen, if only for a little while.”

Hailed as a great way to relax and socialise, at the Jane Austen News we can see why the clubs are so popular. Especially when you add Jane to the mix!

UK = Fanny Price?
tumblr_ml7x96Qhm31rwahceo1_500Jane popped up in the news this week as two newspapers decided to compare the U.S. and the UK to Austen characters.

“In the Jane Austen novel of international life, we were supposed to be Marianne, the one with all the feelings. You were supposed to be Elinor, the sensible one … We read all these books of yours about people in the countryside drinking tea for hours on end because we thought you knew better than we did!” – The Washington Post

“We’re no longer Elinor, the sensible one. In the Jane Austen novel of international life, we are Fanny Price: the throwback no one respects.” – The Guardian

We’re really not quite sure what to make of the Washington Post’s and The Guardian’s Jane Austen metaphor.

Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

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The Jane Austen Book Club By Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club Cover

The Jane Austen Book Club By Karen Joy Fowler

“We have tried to get “Self-control,” but in vain. I should like to know what her estimate is, but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever, and of finding my own story and my own people all forestalled.”
A letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen
April 30, 1811

We approached The Jane Austen Book Club with some trepidation, fearing, like Jane, to find a clever novel too clever: that showy sort of cleverness that is vulgarly self-congratulatory, as if drawing the reader’s attention to itself and away from the story. Fortunately, our fears were unfounded; The Jane Austen Book Club is a delightful comedy of manners that holds many joys for readers and many more joys for Janeites.

The plot is nonlinear, but with a story arc that brings the disparate sections together. Each chapter includes a discussion of one of Jane Austen’s novels and a month in the lives of the members of the club, five women and one man. Each chapter also tells the story of the leader of that particular book’s discussion, with the entire chapter, past and present, echoing the original novel under discussion in interlocking twists of narration, so subtly that even the well-read Janeite can miss the references if she is not careful. The amateur theatricals in Mansfield Park become a high school musical; the Upper Rooms in Bath morph into a science fiction convention; and Bingley’s ball becomes a fundraiser dinner dance.

The members of the group adapt their roles to fit each novel, as well. They do not adhere slavishly to their assigned doppelganger, a conceit that is often annoying in Austen imitations. In each narrative they play a different role, but there is always an echo of the established character—sometimes the hero, sometimes the heroine, sometimes both hero and heroine, no small feat. The resolution of the romantic entanglements of the characters will be little surprising to the Janeite that is paying attention, though Jane’s novels are sometimes reflected in surprising and unexpected ways, like meeting an old friend coming around a corner.

The authoress’ prejudices shine through—clearly she is no fan of Sense and Sensibility—but in general she displays a deep knowledge of and affection for Jane Austen’s works as well as a sharp insight into human interaction. We are privileged to get inside each of the main characters’ heads, and when necessary, we observe the action through the eyes of a first person plural narrator; despite the noneditorial “we,” one suspects that the point of view really shifts between the various members of the club. It is a convention that can be perceived as overly precious, but we found it charming and very like the narrative voice of Jane Austen’s novels, drawing the reader into the circle of the characters who populate it.

We (in the editorial sense) spent a week delightfully immersed in Ms. Fowler’s reimagining of Jane Austen’s world, reminded once again why we (in the sense of “all Janeites”) still read Jane Austen’s novels two centuries after they were written: because they speak to the universal themes that are as relevant and recognizable in the 21st century as they were in the 19th; because a heroine—or a hero—does not have to be a “picture of perfection” to be likeable; and because everyone loves a happy ending.

Each of us has a private Austen, Ms. Fowler tells us in the first line of the novel. We found this statement to have a great deal of truth to it, and further submit that perhaps each of us has her own, internal Jane Austen character—or several—as well.


The Jane Austen Book Club

Hardcover: 288 pages (May 2004)
Publisher: Marian Wood Book
ISBN: 0399151613
List Price: £13.04/$23.95


Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trapdoors. Her Jane Austen is a literary genius with a wicked, irrepressible sense of humor, who has no objection to marriage but is quite content to remain single

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The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club is a motley crew of eccentrics such as California specializes in. The five women and one man who comprise the membership of the reading group are a diverse bunch, different ages, backgrounds, marital status, sexual orientations, beginning readers of Jane Austen and those who have been re-reading Austen for decades. Their common bond is that their lives are scattered, fractured and lonely. The 21st century provides them with no set of values to tell them which behaviors are right or wrong, which relationships acceptable or unacceptable. Their highest aim is to please themselves, though they seem to have no idea how to best go about it, and their personal relationships are subject to change. They are fumbling in the dark.

It seems highly improbable that such a reading group would find relevance in nineteenth century, English novels, as the club’s members are light years away from Jane Austen’s proper ladies and gentlemen who repress their emotions, delay their gratifications, maintain their dignity, conform to their society and marry, for better or for worse, till death did them part. How can ultra-modern Americans relate to characters who find divorce shocking but consider dueling with pistols to be a rational response to provocation? The book club might as well be reading about life on another planet, and yet they read Jane Austen. But their interest in Austen’s characters is perhaps no more unlikely than the viewer’s interest in the Californians’ messy lives and the viewer’s hope that the book club members will find love and happiness, and yet that happens as well.

The film begins with a well constructed reminder of the harried lives we lead in the 21st century, constantly harassed by buzzers and beepers, tones and timers, pre-recorded messages and malfunctioning machinery. It’s all so impersonal, frustrating and numbingly lonely, and yet the modern world has links to Jane Austen’s, the irresistible appeal of falling in love (Pride and Prejudice), the comfort of supportive relatives (Sense and Sensibility), the pain of dysfunctional families (Mansfield Park), the freshness of youth (Northanger Abbey), our lifelong ability to surprise ourselves (Emma) and the endurance and regenerative power of love (Persuasion). Each member of the club assumes responsibility for leading the discussion of a different book, a novel whose main character bears an uncanny resemblance to… Well, you get the picture.

With an affinity for science fiction and horror novels, Grigg (Hugh Dancy) is sweet, young and ready to fall in love at first sight. Allegra (Maggie Grace) is a risk taker who sets propriety at nought and throws herself, full throttle, at life. Light, bright and sparkling Bernadette (Kathy Baker) has turned meeting Mr. Darcy into her life’s work. Prudie (Emily Blunt) is an awkward, shy, uptight survivor, carefully maneuvering her way through relationships. Jocelyn (Maria Bello) is independent, self confident and controlling, but she doesn’t know herself as well as she thinks she does. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) watches helplessly as the love of her life (Jimmy Smits) pursues another woman. Does all of this sound familiar?

The Book Club is a must see for Austen fans who are bound to appreciate the references to well-loved novels and characters, but it is not necessary to have read any of Austen’s books to understand the film. Like Austen’s novels, the film’s emotional turmoil is balanced by a good deal of humour, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable film that ends too soon. There is an improbable, feel-good conclusion, but then Jane Austen was not entirely opposed to happy endings, even admittedly contrived ones, and, as Austen might have said herself, let other films dwell on guilt and misery.

Additionally, The Jane Austen Book Club is a film with a message. The Book Club reminds us of the power of literature to inspire us, to challenge us, to suggest solutions to our problems, to offer us hope and, yes, to change our lives. Although few of us would dare to recommend Persuasion as a how-to handbook for patching up troubled relationships, we must agree with Bernadette in the film who declares, if you need advice, you could do worse than Jane Austen. And, whatever else one may say about the book club, they have impeccable taste in reading material.

The Jane Austen Book Club is based on the novel by Karen Joy Fowler.

Sheryl Craig is an Instructor at the University of Central Missouri. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Kansas.