When I first heard about the novel by Karen Joy Fowler, I was automatically intrigued. Sure, it would make for a short-lived book club if that was its singular raison d’etre, as Prudie would put it. And I’m sure such Austen book clubs have existed, but I like Fowler’s twist of having the lives of the six club members parallel a portion of the Austen novel they were assigned. Some of it doesn’t feel contrived or an unnecessary tack-on to the character’s back-story, but it imbues the Austen aura on the novel as a whole. I also liked the Austen novel summaries and quotations both praising and criticising Austen in the last 200 years found in the back of the novel.
As for Robin Swicord’s film adaptation, I was having trouble distinguishing Sylvia from Allegra in some scenes when the book club gathered. I’m not sure if Swicord removed a decade from Jocelyn’s, Sylvia’s, Bernadette’s, and Grigg’s ages compared to the novel, but this is probably a better selling point to promote the film. (Who would then portray the age-appropriate characters if that were the case?) The flashback sequences were handled well, even if in dialogue. The flashbacks involving Prudie and Grigg would have been ones I wanted to see, had there been time for them.
Overall, I liked the novel, and I liked the film to the extent that certain liberties have been taken for the adaptation (not unlike, for example, the versions shown on Masterpiece Theatre so far, P&P 95 exempted). Novel: 8/10, Film: 7/10