This book was an instant yes for me when it came across my desk for review. It looked so incredible and Jane Austen—need I say more?
It was also marketed to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which was a huge favorite of mine last year and I was eager to read something in the same vein.
When I started reading this one, it was with the expectation that it would be charming and heart warming just as one of Jane Austen’s novels.
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.
Where to begin with this one? I mean, on one hand I liked it but on the other, it wasn’t quite the uplifting book that I expected it to be—at least for the first half of the book. The unlikely group of people who come together because of their love of Jane Austen was charming and very much like the Potato Peel Pie book, but it was also just kind of depressing to start with.
Dr Gray had lost his wife, don’t even get me started on Adeline’s situation, Adam just seemed like this sad lonely farmer, and Mimi—-well all I can say is #MeToo. Everyone just seemed so broken and in desperate need of something positive—-enter their Jane Austen Society.
While the Jane Austen Society gives them all a much needed purpose but for me it came a little too late. This book is told from multiple POVs and while each POV was executed well, I just never felt overly invested in any of the character’s stories. I also felt that the Society just came too late, the Society comes in to play about 45% of the way through which just came too late for me. The second half of the book was much more positive but the beginning just felt more sad to me than it needed to be. I know that others weren’t bothered by this and felt that it was an uplifting book—-so perhaps I am in the minority in this perspective.
This book is clearly written for Austen fans and I would recommend if for any Austen fan as it is a good story, but for me I just had a different feeling from the beginning of the book. If you love Jane Austen you should definitely give this one a go because there are tons of Austen tidbits and discussions about her works between the characters that more than make up for some of the sad character storylines.
Book Info and Rating
WHERE TO BUY
- An Amazon Best Book of May 2020
- One of Goodreads Big Books of Spring & Hot Books of Summer
- One of Audible’s Top 50 Most Anticipated Spring Audiobooks
- June 2020 Indie Next Pick
- May 2020 Library Reads Pick
- Starred Review – Library Journal
- Starred Review – Booklist
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.
AUDIOBOOK NARRATED BY ACTOR RICHARD ARMITAGE
The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).
Link to YouTube audiobook excerpt: https://youtu.be/OJ1ACJluRi8
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“Just like a story written by Austen herself, Jenner’s first novel is brimming with charming moments, endearing characters, and nuanced relationships…Readers won’t need previous knowledge of Austen and her novels to enjoy this tale’s slow revealing of secrets that build to a satisfying and dramatic ending.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“Few things draw disparate people together so quickly as discovering they love the same writers. Few writers cement such friendships as deeply as Austen does. I believe that the readers of Jenner’s book will fall in love with the readers inside Jenner’s book, all of us thinking and dreaming of Austen the whole while. What could be better? Nothing, that’s what! A wonderful book, a wonderful read.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
Spotify users can access a playlist for THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY at the following link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5Q1Vl17qyQQIvvPGeIPCkr?si=-iMhVz8uRk2v2mTdolrPdg. The playlist includes music from various film adaptions of Jane Austen’s books, as well as film scores by such incomparable artists as Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Rachel Portman, and Michael Nyman.