The Jane Austen Book Club

Karen Joy Fowler was one of my Clarion teachers and, while it’s been a while since I read her work, I picked up the Austen book and am trying to read it before the movie comes out on Friday. So far I’m really liking it, and I’m liking what she does with the characters, having each of their back stories unpacked through the lens of various Austen characters. There’s also something in the group dynamic that reminds me oddly of Chaucer.

But she’s doing something interesting with the POV that I’ve never seen done before. In the back story scenes, she’s firmly entrenched in the third person singular, focused on the thoughts of one person. But the group scenes are mostly first person plural: “We glared at Allegra. We saw Bernadette look to Jocelyn before proceeding.” There’s never an “I,” and the person the “We” reacts to shifts equally between the group members. So the first person plural is not an unnamed narrator from within the group, it’s more of a hive mind, like the book club itself is a character instead of a collection of characters. It’s a really interesting choice, and I’m trying to decide how I feel about it. Has anyone else read the book?