Monday, January 28, 2008

The Jane Austen Book Club Discussion by Pamela Jeanne

This post is written by Pamela Jeanne of Coming2Terms and posted by Melissa to the Annex. You can leave a comment for her here or go over to Coming2Terms to continue the discussion.


It was fun to imagine being a seventh member of the Jane Austen Book Club. I’m a devoted fan of Jane Austen. For a time when I was 17 years old, I emulated her writing in letters to friends if only because I was intrigued with trying to imagine what life must have been like when she was alive. My fascination continues because I more than likely would have been a close friend of hers if we had lived at that time. Like her I would have used whatever devices were at my disposal to maintain my independence or to express my ideas or opinions. I shudder to think how limiting life for women was in Jane’s era, and for that I respect her tremendously.

Happiness seemed to be a reoccurring topic throughout the book. Sylvia and Bernadette seemed to be polar opposites in how they reacted to things in life and how they viewed happiness. Do you identify with one of these ladies over the other? Explain. Did another character speak to you instead? Who and why?

I identified more with Bernadette and her idea of happiness. Happiness for me has become less dependent on circumstances around me and more about how I choose to perceive what comes my way. I’ve learned to appreciate happiness as a state of mind that’s in my control. I found Sylvia’s weakness was in subjugating herself to her immediate family. By seeking happiness in my own right I think I do more to help those in my life. Bernadette and I also share a sometimes na├»ve desire to see the good in people. I want to believe that people will surprise me with their goodness.

Which character in the Jane Austen Book Club did you most relate to? And what is your favorite Jane Austen novel and why?

Jocelyn is the character I most related to in this novel. I’m allergic to animals but if I wasn’t I could see having a close relationship with cats or dogs because they seem in their own way to be more accepting than humans. While neither Jocelyn nor I have children and we share strong independent streaks, Jocelyn and I also have definite nurturing aspects.

As for my favorite novel, it’s by far Pride and Prejudice. I adore Elizabeth Bennet and imagined as a young woman that we were very like each other. I appreciate her pragmatism but I also relate to her closet romantic side. She wasn’t one to buy into the marriage game of her day and saw the absurdity of a smart woman settling for a lesser mate. She was intellectually equal to men (thanks to her progressive father) and wasn’t about to sell out for an uneven match-- my kind of girl.

Jocelyn and Sylvia are closer than most sisters. Their relationship has withstood many tests. Do you have a particular friend who has stood by you through thick and thin in ways that stand out from most friendships, and if so what brought you together and what keeps the relationship so special?

Friendships grow and change challenged by life’s experiences. I’m in a hiatus of sorts with two of my best friends – one from my childhood, the other from my early 20s. In the case of the former, we shared the premature death of her mother and in the case of the latter sad and regretful divorce – each of which forced us to grow but the pain was diminished with the closeness we shared. Sadly, their graduation to mommyhood has created a large gap in our ability to relate to each other today. I expect that much like Joceyln and Sylvia who had their own differing experiences we’ll come back together at some point but I am very aware that I am next to impossible for them to understand. They have the larger challenge in trying to figure me out and yet I have high hopes my differences won’t prove to be the end of what was once a great ability to read each other’s minds.

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Jane Austen Book Club? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Brigade by visiting the master list at Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #10 (Embryo Culture by Beth Kohl with author participation!) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.


loribeth said...

I'm not particularly a pet person, which is why I guess I didn't relate strongly to Jocelyn. But I did appreciate her friendship with Sylvia and her willingness to expand her horizons (& her reading list) via her friendship with Grigg. I read "The Left Hand of Darkness" in university & while I would probably sooner pick up a Jane Austen novel than science fiction, I did enjoy that one.

The Town Criers said...

This line--"I want to believe that people will surprise me with their goodness."--was so true for me too.

The Dunn Family said...

It's funny, because I still feel a distance between me and some of my closest friends, because of how easy their pregnancies came, and how difficult mine did. Although they did their best to support me, sometimes I felt like they didn't understand how much a part of me the infertility was. One of them actually said "Well, now you can forget all that unpleasantness, because you have kids." They just don't understand how it has forever changed the person that I am. I hope that you and your friends can find the common ground that made you so close to begin with, and be ok with the differences.

Thanks for you insight.

Andie said...

You said everything about Elizabeth Bennet that I wished I could have said! I am going to dust that book off the shelf the next time I have a few days to myself. And Sylvia too...that was the one thing I didn't like about her. I also want to believe people will surprise me with their goodness - and that happiness is a state of mind.

Deb said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your personal experiences.