As part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen never goes out of style. Thankfully, corsets and dowries are passé, but Austen’s keen eye for social absurdity, the complicated relationships between the sexes, and hearty appreciation for a good joke is timeless. In this month’s Book a Month selection, The Family Fortune, novelist Laurie Horowitz restages Persuasion in post-9/11 Boston, where a bookish young woman (aptly named Jane) struggles to find her path in the wake of regret.
1. Persuasion isn’t the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be adapted for modern audiences. What makes her stories so timeless? Are there any prevailing themes in Austen’s novels that don’t stand the test of time?
2. One major difference between Anne Elliot in Persuasion and Jane Fortune in The Family Fortune is that Jane has options for independence that Anne did not. Jane has a college degree, a work history, and the privilege of living in a place and time that allows women to be financially independent. Yet Jane feels like people view her as a spinster and is startled when she is praised professionally. Are women today still measured more for their personal choices than their professional ones? How and why?
3. Like Anne, Jane fulfills a very specific role in her family. Some may say she’s a doormat; others might call her the peacemaker. Looking at your own life and your own family, do you play a default “role”? What is it? Is it a role that’s been forced on you, or one you sought for yourself? Is there another role you would rather play?
4. People are constantly telling Jane that she never changes. For some, that’s a comfort. For others, it’s an annoyance. What does and does not change about Jane over the course of the novel? How much of that can be credited to other people, and how much of it is she herself responsible for?
5. Both Jane and Anne Elliot are persuaded to make major (and ultimately regrettable) life decisions based on the advice of someone they love and trust. Can you think of a time in your life when someone whose opinion you trusted led you astray? How did you handle the outcome? Did it change your relationship with your advisor?