SIX AUSTEN NOVELS, six chapters, six members: sounds neat doesn't it? Except The Jane Austen Book Club, a novel centred around a Californian 'all-Jane-Austen-all-the- time' reading group, belies its formal symmetry to offer us something less smug and more enriching than we might expect. With a narrative devoted to the monthly gatherings of the six Austen-lovers, one might also have anticipated several arch parodies of Austen's work to be foisted clumsily upon the reader, but not so - the references are understated enough for even the most ardent Janeite to miss a few.
The novel follows a simple structure. The members of the group take it in turns to host a discussion of a different Austen book each month: Jocelyn, the unmarried, organising founder; her best friend Sylvia, recently separated from her husband; Bernadette, an ageing dance queen who has married a thousand