Friday, October 18, 2013

The One-Off, Six-Meeting, Limited-Edition Jane Austen Book Club of Toronto

Many years ago I belonged to a book club, and - for a very short while - to two. When I left, I was ready for a break, ready to read only what I wanted, when I wanted. I remember devouring some fantastic, embossed-cover, beach-quality trash in the few months that followed.

This summer, I was surprised to realize that I'd never actually read a Jane Austen novel. I've seen so many filmed versions, and have a beautiful set of the novels that my dad gave me years ago, so I was quite certain this wasn't the case.

Okay, it's the case. Inspired by this book, I sent out the word to a few friends, and then, with some friends of friends along for the ride, started the Jane Austen Book Club! It's a temporary feature as we'll read all six novels, one every two months, giving us a year of Austen pleasure and conversation.

Our first meeting was last Saturday, at L'Espresso Bar Mercurio. There are nine of us in all, so there's lots of opinions to be shared. The novel was Northanger Abbey and I think it can be universally acknowledged to be the slightest of her six complete novels. I was amazed at how very witty Austen is, and how very observant as to the ways of people, especially - in this case - young women. A few days before our meeting I was standing in line at Tim Horton's and I overheard two teenage girls talking. It was all very "OMG I can't believe she said that to him. I swear to God I was going to die. There's no fucking way, and... no I mean it - OMG totally." Etc. It was just like Catherine and Isabella... nothing has changed. Teenage girls will still swing madly from extreme to extreme, dying one minute, in ecstacy the next. I remember it, and I just love how Jane Austen captured it. One of the party had even read Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, the gothic thriller that inspired Jane Austen and her heroine's vivid imagination. And now we're onto hopefully more intriguing material with Sense and Sensibility.

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