Posts Tagged ‘the jane austen society’

Happy New Year, friends! Sorry it’s taken me so long to take stock of last year’s reading, but last year definitely wasn’t a normal one for me…and unfortunately I don’t see a return to normalcy anytime soon. Between working overtime nearly every day, grappling with some health issues and all the associated stress, and losing a beloved pet and having to work through that grief, my reading and writing dramatically dropped off. In fact, after years of reading 50-100 books a year, I only managed to finish 16 in 2020. Of course, quality matters more than quantity, and thankfully, I read some good books last year! Here are my favorites from that list:

What were your favorite books from those you read last year? I’d love to see your lists, so please let me know in the comments!

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Source: Review copy from St. Martin’s Press

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner is a book I’d been anticipating for months and had high expectations for going in. It was described as perfect for fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, both of which I loved. Well, The Jane Austen Society exceeded my high expectations and is one of the first books that actually lived up to the ones to which it has been compared — and in some ways surpassed them.

The novel is mainly centered in the village of Chawton, where Jane Austen spent her final years, just after World War II. The characters are united in their love of Austen’s works and their desire to purchase and preserve the steward’s cottage that was Austen’s home with her mother and sister. But the novel is so much more than the society’s efforts to create a place to honor Austen’s memory and fame.

Jenner has created a cast of characters that, like Austen’s, won’t soon be forgotten. These characters — including Dr. Benjamin Gray and Adeline Grover, whose friendship is complicated by their suffering; Miss Frances Knight, isolated at the Great House; the shy farmer Adam Berwick, who discovers Austen’s novels after meeting an American tourist; Evie Stone, the servant girl with a voracious appetite for reading and an appreciation for old books; and Mimi Harrison, an actress struggling with sexism and ageism in Hollywood — felt like kindred spirits. The hundred or so pages that lay out their stories before the society is formed were so essential for understanding and loving these damaged spirits, and their discussions of Austen’s novels, how they used them to heal, to grow, and to understand one another was the icing on the cake.

The Jane Austen Society is a novel that you want to both devour and savor at the same time, and one that I won’t soon forget. Jenner’s fondness for these characters, and Austen herself, shines through, and she does a fantastic job bring them and the village of Chawton to life. I’ve heard several people mention that it would make a perfect movie, and I agree. If you are like me and love all things Jane Austen, and especially novels set in the WWII-era, you won’t want to miss this one. A definite for my Best of 2020 list.

About The Jane Austen Society

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.



About the Author

Natalie Jenner

Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.


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