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Jane Austen and what people read

2 August 2004

'One of the things that strikes me so strongly is that her work has been put to every imaginable agenda: people are arguing that she's an intensely conservative writer and then that she's incredibly radical; she was apparently prescribed for shell-shocked soldiers after the First World War, and Emma was made part of the movement to emancipate women in Bengal. It's really quite astonishing.

I help facilitate a reading club at the bookstore where I live, in Davis, near Sacramento. It's taken me about five years to be able to predict what one person will like and what they won't. It's both wonderful and troubling to me to see how we all read the same books, but we all read a completely different book. Some things that seem to me to be very tangential to a book will be the entire focus of someone else's reading.'

Karen Joy Fowler in the Bookseller, talking about her US no 1 bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club