If you’ve ever yearned to share afternoon tea with Emma Woodhouse or fancied a stroll around the garden with Mr. Darcy, you might consider the next best thing: joining The Jane Austen Society of North America.The national organization is a group dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of Austen and her writing. The group hosts an annual conference, puts out a journal three times a year and has regional groups that meet for book clubs, teas and other Austen-esque activities. Until now, the closest regional groups have been in Portland, Seattle or Boise.
That’s about to change. Michele Larrow is organizing a group for the Inland Northwest region that will serve eastern Washington and northern Idaho, including the Palouse, Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, up to the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area. Those interested are invited to an informational meeting Sunday in Pullman.
The group is open to all fans of Austen, whether you’re a book reader, a movie watcher or both. Though the national group draws literature professors and scholars, there are also plenty like Larrow who have a minimal literary background. Larrow works as a psychologist in the counseling center at Washington State University. She read her first Jane Austen book in high school.
“We read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and I really loved it,” Larrow said.
She returned to it — and others books by Austen — many years later and joined the national society around 2009. With her witty dialogue and use of language, Austen’s books have wide appeal, Larrow said, and most people who enjoy them who have a favorite heroine and hero, providing plenty of content for fans to connect over.
“She wrote about normal people,” Larrow said. “People talk to each other in a way that you’d talk with your own friends.”
Though Larrow started with “Pride and Prejudice,” her favorite of Austen’s books now is “Emma.”
“Every time you read it, there’s something new you notice,” she said.
Besides recently enjoying the theme of secrets in the book, which are hinted at along the way, Larrow has also had a paper accepted to the society’s journal that explore sympathy in the book.
As far as what a gathering of other Austen fans might look like, Larrow said it just depends on interest. She’s hoping to have a group tea in Spokane later this summer and could see the group hosting different events in different cities in the area. Regional groups host book clubs, picnics, speakers, Victorian style dances, craft events and other events of interest to group members. The activities are connected to Austen’s writing, but don’t necessarily have to involve direct connection or discussion of her work.
More about The Jane Austen Society of North America can be found online at www.jasna.org. Annual dues are $30 per person or $18 per student; the regional group will not have dues. Membership in the national group is encouraged by the regional group but not required.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Jane Austen Society of North American Regional Group
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Cafe Moro, 100A E. Main St., Pullman