Chick Lit – Undercover Delights

CoverOk, I confess. I am a literary snob. I happily join the ranks of uptight people who read books described by the Times and Margaret Atwood as ‘meaningful’, ‘thought provoking’ and ‘poignant’. I revel in subplots, experimental language and universal themes. Yearly, I anxiously await the Man Booker Prize list so I can rush to the computer and place holds on at least five titles.

However, I have been feeling out of touch recently. A series of delightful female customers have asked me for advice in finding a ‘light read’. I was coming to dread these interactions because they left me gabbling and sounding like I didn’t know what on earth I was talking about, which I didn’t, and I hate that. “If you like…” help pages only go so far.

So, when the Five Book Challenge came along, I decided to leap in and tackle my greatest fear – Chick Lit. The snob in me was appalled but you’ve only got to look at the statistics to see how popular the Chick Lit genre is. Danielle Steel alone has sold over 530 million copies worldwide whereas many titles that make the Booker shortlist have trouble covering publishing costs. I started to wonder if there is more to Chick-Lit than I realised.

My first problem was finding where to start …

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The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen book clubP D James once famously said that Jane Austen’s books were “Mills and Boon written by a genius” which goes a long way to explaining their enduring appeal, I suppose.  Austen’s novels have remained popular over the years and it is she, more than any other who has inspired contemporary “chicklit” authors in tales of love and misunderstandings.

 The Jane Austen Book Club (currently screening in New Zealand cinemas) is about a group of Austen appreciaters who gather to discuss her works but find that their own love lives mirror those of the characters in her novels.  The recent release of the movie which is based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler prompted me to wonder – how many other books out there are inspired by the works of the fabulous Miss Austen?  Continue reading