The book is divided into six sections, preceded by a prologue introducing the characters, and followed by an epilogue. In each section one of Jane Austen's novels is read and discussed by the six members of the book club, but very little exploration of Austen's novels really take place. Instead, each section lets us get to know the various members of the little book club better. The book jumps back and forth between the present (where the characters are preparing for or participating in the book club) and the past (where we find out their various back stories). Sometimes this annoyed me a bit, but all in all, the book was sweet. This is probably also one of the few books where the suggested discussion questions have entertained and amused me more than annoy me.
I love Jane Austen, and feel a bit ashamed to say that I have yet to read all of her novels. I have yet to read Mansfield Park, because everyone says it's the one with the dullest hero and heroine, and while The Jane Austen Book Club was not the sort of book that completely sucks me in and makes me sorry I have to put it down to do some work or go to the gym or make my dinner, it did entertain me, and did make me resolved that before 2010 is out I will have read the final Austen novel.
I finished the book this afternoon, and also watched the movie adaptation. While a lot of it was very well done (although I get the impression they cast at least three of the characters much younger than they are in the book), I really hated the changes they made to Prudie's story and especially the idiot they turned her husband into. I did not think Prudie's character or story development in the book was such that it needed to be dramatically altered to create phony tension in the film. Yet another case where the book is in the end, better than the movie adaptation.