An update from our thirty-first Book Club meeting!
The session was small, which meant that we were able to have thorough in-depth conversations with Ms. Worsley about The Austen Girls and the process of writing it, and also about her vast knowledge about life in the Georgian era in England. Participants came prepared with many questions and Ms. Worsley was lively and thorough in her responses. Our Q and A session lasted for the entirety of the book club.
What was most notable and interesting to me about the Austen Girls was the immersive detail about daily life which was woven into the fabric of the narrative about two young girls, Jane Austen’s real-life nieces, Fanny and Anna, at the cusp of being “presented to society” with the expectation that they would find husbands. The book covers many weighty and important themes spanning feminism to the criminal justice system, but in doing so, we get what feels like a true window into life during this time, with each scene opening at one character or another’s breakfast table, or sitting room, or library, etc.
Our discussion with Ms. Worsley shed further light on the daily experiences of her protagonist with her vast knowledge of the historical record and the very documents that inspired the novel. For instance, Ms. Worsley told us of a series of letters she’s read from Jane Austen to Fanny and Anna sharing her advice about their various marriage prospects, urging them to “avoid this one, he seems a bit shady” or, instead, “maybe look into this one…” What better fodder for a novel!!
Ms. Worsley was as generous with her questions for Book Club participants as she was with her answers, prompting engaging discussions about the types of historical fiction participants have read or would perhaps like to write about. Finally, she shared her plans for her next piece of historical fiction which we all look forward to reading.
I hope everyone enjoys a warm and festive holiday season and we look forward to welcoming you to our next session of Book Club meetings beginning on January 29th, 2022.
I have truly enjoyed leading the Book Club for the past year and half, but I will be stepping away from this role in order to focus my time on my primary role at Stone Soup as the director of the Refugee Project. I’m so excited for you all to meet Maya Mahony, who will be taking over as Book Club facilitator in January. Maya is a graduate student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she specializes in Young Adult fiction. I’m sure she will bring so much knowledge to the table as Book Club facilitator and I hope you’ll all join her! Maya’s first Book Club session will cover Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.
Our Next Book (to be discussed on January 29, 2022):
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis