I am a member of four reading groups. This is a little crazy but it is working out pretty well. I joined the first one because I wanted someone to talk to about books. Then one thing led to another and I ended up being in four. It is good because a) I read books I would otherwise have never read (actually a mixed blessing. I had to read one by Nicholas Sparks a few months ago-yuck.) and b) I read books on my to-be-read pile that I otherwise was not getting around to. Also, as a budding writer, it is fascinating to me to hear all the different reactions from actual readers, not critics, to the same book. Being in four groups means I have a meeting about once a week which is a bit challenging but not impossible.
This month so far, I read Little Scarlet, by Walter Mosley and The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler together with Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. I had been meaning to read The Jane Austen Book Club ever since it came out. The story involves five women and one man who read and discuss all of Jane's books over a six month period and I thought I would read the Austen books first, but reading a Jane Austen book just doesn't get me excited so I never got around to it. I did read Pride and Prejudice while I was reading Reading Lolita in Tehran last fall and it wasn't bad once I got used to all that stupid dialogue that she puts in to make fun of how people talked in those days. At least now I know what people mean when they talk about Darcy.
Anyway, The Jane Austen Book Club was a disappointment. It is the second book about book clubs I have read. (The other one was a reading group pick as well, entitled Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.) I always think I will like this type of story because I love reading and I am in reading groups, but in both books, there are too many characters and you never really get deeply into any one of their lives. Plus this one was just too much like any other modern book about modern women and all their issues. She obviously was drawing comparisons between these women's lives and the women in Jane Austen's books, but the fact is that Jane Austen does it better.
So part of the plan this month was to also read Northanger Abbey in combination with the other book. (I will be interested to see how many group members managed to read both.) I finished the Fowler book yesterday and the Austen book tonight. Catherine is the heroine in Northanger Abbey, and she is the most likeable of Austen's women so far, in my opinion. She is a bit ditzy and unaware, mostly because she is young and also because she doesn't realize, as all the other women do, that getting a husband is THE THING. She suffers agonies over the stupid things she does and has a lovely sense of what is right socially, but has not a duplicitous bone in her body. And of course, in the end she gets her man.
Well, that is enough of Jane Austen for now. I am going back to the William Faulkner book I interrupted to read these two.