The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Joy Fowler

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at  You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Embryo Culture by Beth Kohl (with author participation!)

  • Jocelyn and Sylvia are closer than most sisters. Their relationship has withstood many tests. Do you have a particular friend who has stood by you through thick and thin in ways that stand out from most friendships, and if so what brought you together and what keeps the relationship so special?

My friends have changed. Several of my friends before little DG was born never seem to respond to texts or emails and even though I DO on occasion like to do non-mummy things, they never seem to have me on the radar for social activities. Maybe I am just boring these days! A few of my old friends are still on the scene, one now has a child, the others don’t,  and we still have fun together, and I hope are still there for each other. They have seen me through various miscarriages and the IVF/FET.

The two other good friends I have now were friends I made on the mummy circuit –  women I chatted to in cafes when our children were babies.  Again, we have shared in the ups and downs of the last few years. And Hobbesy (friend/donor) first got to know me via the internet and both having sons the same age – followed by miscarriages (me) and difficulty conceiving no 2 (her)

I think what characterises all these relationships is the women are the sort of people who empathise with others, and are concerned about their feelings, and keep in touch even when times are hard. I think those are the characteristics of a true friend, really.

  • Allegra is described as “liking being an aunt. That it offered all the kid time she needed. Probably. All she wanted mostly.” If you don’t have your own children, but are an aunt how important is that role to you and, what special rewards does it offer?

I have a  child now, but I was a professional aunt in my time.

I think it’s possible to be an aunt where you cherry pick the enjoyable side of being around children – treats, trips and outings. But helping out a younger sister, with few resources and not much money, when you’re both in your early twenties… that’s not so much fun, in retrospect.

My younger sister had her daughter when she was just 20, less than a year after my then best friend had hers, and both of them called on me a great deal for help and support. My mother died when my niece was 5 months old and my little sister had a lot on her plate, trying to finish her degree while bringing up a baby alone. I was always the first (only) port of call for babysitting and practical help and much as I loved my niece, the experience did rather put me off childbearing.  I think I used up all my caring capacity being an aunt, and an older sister to my siblings, my brother was only 18 when my mum died.

  • Bernadette asks that the club be made up of women only: “The dynamic changes with men. They pontificate rather than communicate. They talk more than their share.”  What differences did having a man bring to the group?  If you have close male friends, how do they differ in relating to your infertility/everyday struggles?

Although I think there’s truth in the idea that men pontificate, I don’t think they do that in relation to feelings. I don’t think they like to hear about sadness or despair,  they want to fix things. I am still pretty friendly with my ex, little DG’s godfather, he has helped out by looking after little DG on one occasion while I had a d&c. His response to a tale of woe is to offer me a treat to cheer me up.

Mr Hobbesy is a bit of an exception. Despite being in quite a male job, he sometimes seems very in touch with his feelings! I wonder if the experience he and Hobbesy had with conceiving number 2 has given him some insight to infertility and loss. He certainly seems happier than most to talk about the intricacies.


~ by drownedgirl on January 28, 2008.

8 Responses to “The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Joy Fowler”

  1. Thanks for an interesting perspctive on aunthood. You’re right, it’s one thing to be able to spoil your nieces & nephews and help out as you choose, quite another when it becomes a responsibility. That would probably have put me off childbreaing for awhile, too!

    I didn’t answer the question about men in groups. We do get some dads attending our pg loss support group (although they do tend to drift off after a few meetings, while the wives keep coming longer), including the occasional guy who gets just as emotional if not more so than his wife. The wives sometimes say the guys will say things in group about their feelings and the loss experience that they’ve never heard them say before.

    My experience has been that the more men there are in a group, & the more they outnumber the women, the more they will tend to “pontificate.”

  2. Two of these questions were mine so I’m particularly interested in how you answered them (it is about me, after all 😉 …

    Your friendship tales raised the specter of the friends underscores for me the difference between those with and without children. It is just harder for me to be comfortable with my friends who seem to drop constant references to their mom life. It’s what causes me to do my word replacement exercise. If I dropped “infertile” into every third reference it would become pretty it would become pretty tedious, I’m sure, to them. It just feels like I have to do more to accommodate their life than they do mine at times. I often wonder how they’ll be when they reach the “empty nest” period of their lives. I’m actually sort of looking forward to that as I can imagine they’ll be consumed with other passions — passions I can relate to.

    On the aunt front, you raise a great point about being the aunt of fun and diversion vs. being the aunt of hard work. Clearly the former is the more enjoyable.

    I agree with your thoughts about men and their desire to fix things. I have a male friend who is also personally familiar with IF. He is more in touch with the feelings that come with it than most, but he still wants to move out of the realm of “feeling” and to get me to a fix of sorts. For him it’s less about the process of working through the emotions and more about arriving at a solution.

  3. Ah. didn’t have the benefit of the preview feature to clean up my answers…that’s the problem with writing, toasting a bagel, writing, getting a cup of coffee and writing. Well, readers will just edit out the random words.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I am so sorry about your mum. I loved reading this different perspective on aunthood–the aunt who is needed vs. the niece/nephew who is needed.

  6. I was actually thinking the same thing about men. They want to fix things more than anything else. Luckily my DH isn’t too much like that, but a lot of my male friends, when I explained my infertility, tried to come up with ways to get me pregnant. Hey, what about IUI, IVF? Have you thought about adoption? Like they wanted me to say “No! I hadn’t! Thank you for the answer! Now let’s go get a drink, cause you told me how to have a baby!” I didn’t really get that from my female friends!

  7. Hey DG, I couldn’t read this selection in time, but I am really looking forward to Embryo Culture, which I plan to delve into more this weekend.

    In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind, but I tagged you:

  8. hi DG — just checking in. thinking of you.

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