Here are thoughts I have had about the very modern society of the Jane Austen Book Club in contrast with the characters and society of Austen's books, and particularly to begin with, the novel Emma.
Some questions about Emma. What if Emma had not realised her faults and her true affections and not fallen eventually for Knightly, or if Knightly had not been so constant in his affection for Emma and been completely turned away by her foolish and sometimes cruel behavior? Would Emma have remained unmarried, still admiring/loving Knightly from afar? What if Knightly had married Emma's friend?
Jocelyn is unmarried. She had a relationship with Daniel but this was lost and Daniel married her best friend Silvia. Don't you get the feeling Jocelyn still loves Daniel? Silvia and Daniel are separating and the narrator says of Jocelyn " It was occurring to her for the first time that she was losing Daniel too. She'd handed them over, but she'd never given him up. Now, while she was breeding her dogs and dusting her lightbulbs and reading her books, he had packed his bags and moved away."
Breeding. This is an important issue. For Jocelyn as it is for Austen and her character Emma.
" We thought how the dog world must be a great relief to a woman like Jocelyn, a woman with everyone's best interests at heart, a strong matchmaking implulse and an instinct for tidiness. In the kennel, you just picked the sire and dam who seemed most likely to advance the breed through their progeny. You didn't have to ask them. ..." Wouldn't it be nice if love/marriage was this simple? This is Emma as she starts out, the controller, the matchmaker. She "knows" what is best for Harriet, for Mr. Elton, for herself. But of course, like Jocelyn she doesn't really know what is best at all. What Austen points out is that what is necessary is a moral compass of sorts, a love compass. Emma starts without one but gains direction in time. Jocelyn learned but perhaps too late. It isn't just class as Austen makes quite clear ( in my view) in all her books. There is something else that is more important.
An incident of note in the back story of Jocelyn...the picnic with her friends with her mother and Jocelyn makes cruel and cutting remarks to her. This compares to the incident at Box Hill where Emma makes cruel remarks to Miss Bates and Mr. Knightly rebukes her. Daniel rebukes Jocelyn: "That was kind of mean Jocelyn ...After she cooked all that food and all."
...and it is just after this incident that he reveals to Jocelyn that he loves Sylvia not her.
I get the feeling Jocelyn feels she missed her chance. She likes Austen because Austen recreates a world where it is all possible again, where people ALMOST make the wrong choices but are saved and all works out in the end. Is real life like that? Not for some. Does Jocelyn wish she could go back and do things differently? Of course, don't we all? Austen herself was unmarried- like Jocelyn. Did she have the same feeling? Austen didn't breed dogs and dust light bulbs- she wrote books instead.
The choice of who we marry is perhaps one of the most important choices we make. It is no less fraught with false leads in our day and age and society than it was in Austen's day.
But we all have our own private Austen. This is jumping ahead a bit, but reading the comments at the back of the book about Austen and her novels...everyone has a different take. For example ( from Martin Amis) Jane Austen is weirdly capable of keeping everybody busy. The moralists, the Eros and Agape people, the Marxists, the Freudians, the semioticians, the deconstructors- all find an adventure playground in six samey novels about middle class provincials. And for every generation of critics, and readers, her fiction effortlessly renews itself." Jocelyn you see is reading herself into the novel and Fowler who wrote the Book Club is reading herself and her characters into the novel and we read ourselves into it. Which tells me that Austen captured some of the complexity of life in her novels about middle class provincials and that is something!