This book deserves five stars for its sincere attempt to honor Jane Austen's writing. At the same time, it deserves three stars for the effectiveness of its story and style.
The book has an interesting premise: "Each of us has a private Austen." The premise is explored by having five women and one man meet for a few occasions to discuss their favorite Austen novels. By choosing the novels they choose and what they have to say about them, the characters unintentionally reveal lots about themselves. At the same time, their private lives and loves move in mysterious ways to become harmonious. It's all very Austenish, if it's not very good Austen.
Joycelyn is the perpetual matchmaker, who never finds a match for herself. She thought of starting the Austen book club and recruited its members. Bernadette is an older woman who has moved past pretension and appreciates the humor in life. Grigg is a bachelor whose tastes usually run to science fiction and who has a little trouble fitting in with the women. Sylvia is Joycelyn's oldest friend, and her marriage has just broken up . . . despite Jocelyn having fixed Sylvia up with her husband, Daniel, who was Joycelyn's boy friend originally. Daniel has now flown to a new love. Allegra is the most spirited member of the group, and she's deep into her lesbian love life although not always clear about what's going on there. Allegra is Sylvia's daughter. Prudie is the most serious Austen student, and appreciates all aspects of her writing. Prudie is a high school French teacher who likes to share phrases a little too much and is the only person with an on-going marriage.
The book alternates between relating snatches of the book club meetings with looking into the personal relationships of the members. The book club snatches are a bit too brief for my taste and almost seem designed to avoid offending those who might not know anything about Austen.
If you haven't read everything that Jane Austen wrote, there's a brief set of notes on each novel discussed in this book starting on page 252.
The best part of the book's back materials comes though in quotes from Jane Austen's family and friends about her writing, and prominent writers since then. These sections are worth the price of the book alone! Very nice.
I enjoyed the book, but it fell below my expectations. I suspect the problem was that the book is too short to fully develop the characters, relationships and the book club interactions. You are expected to "fill in the gaps" without many dots to use. I found myself comparing this book to the non-fiction, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and found this book looking light in the comparison.