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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Jane-talk, sponsored

Back in the summer of 2022, TikTok kicked off its inaugural book club with a group reading of Persuasion. Allegedly, the TikTok Book Club was inspired by the organic development of BookTok, the app’s reading community, but it wasn’t long before Amazon signed on as a sponsor. So much for grassroots.


Now comes a similar corporate-sponsored celebration of literature by Jane Austen: The Hallmark Channel is hosting online discussions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, as part of the month-long movie series to which the broadcaster has given the unfortunate name of “Loveuary with Jane Austen.”


Unsurprisingly, the book discussions are scheduled to maximize promotion of Hallmark’s Austen offerings. The January 25 P&P discussion comes about a week before the February 3 air date for Paging Mr. Darcy, the first movie in the series, apparently a P&P-themed contemporary romance; the February 15 S&S discussion serves as a warmup to Hallmark’s February 24 broadcast of a new period adaptation of S&S featuring an all-Black cast.


During both discussions, Hallmark promises, “fans will discuss this season’s Loveuary premieres, the legacy of Jane Austen, and the importance of female-focused storytelling.” (Feminism in the service of commercial-supported corporate media! Not quite the radically egalitarian utopia our foremothers imagined.)


Will the Hallmark-sponsored discussions prove to be lively, insightful looks at two of Austen’s best-loved novels? There are reasons for pessimism: Far from the homey intimacy suggested by the title, these book "clubs” are likely to resemble book stadium shows. Even with the obligatory signup--through which, not incidentally, Hallmark harvests new addresses for its email list--it’s hard to believe the attendance numbers will be low enough to enable actual conversation.


Still, it’s not absolutely impossible that something of value could emerge: The discussion leader, Jenny Forwark, is a school librarian, so she may have the chops for the job. True, she also won a Hallmark Channel contest crowning her Chief Fan Officer, which is . . .  not a position I’d be suited for. But in keeping with my official attitude of relentless Loveuary optimism, I’m hoping for—nay, expecting!--the best.

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Jan 04

Although I admire your dedication to JA-related journalism in pursuing the various angles of this story, I can't emulate you by watching any of these misbegotten movies. Not only have I sworn off most film/video adaptations, I'm damned if I'm watching anything on the Hallmark Channel ever again. I was a captive audience for entirely too many HC movies while my DH was in the nursing home. (The aides had a habit of switching to the HC whenever they had the opportunity.)

Deborah Yaffe
Deborah Yaffe
Jan 04
Replying to

I can see how that would sour you on Hallmark, and many of their offerings do irresistibly remind me of JA's immortal words, "Pictures of perfection as you know make me sick & wicked." I'll be watching so you don't have to. . .

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