Blurb: 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.
Review: I'd like to start off this review by saying: if you are not a Jane Austen fan, you will not like this book. Full stop. Nothing against the book, obviously, but you wouldn't read a Godzilla book and then complain because you don't like giant lizard monsters, yeah? Now you don't have to be a Jane Austen fan to enjoy the book, you just have to not hate her, ya feel?
If Austen isn't something you've dipped your toe into much but you still love the idea of post-WWII England and the coming together of a small town to preserve a legacy, then you should definitely give The Jane Austen Society a read. You might come out of it with five new books to read and a new author to call a favorite.
I've yet to finish my foray into reading the works of Austen (I've admittedly always struggled with the classics), but the movies are some of my favorites and Pride and Prejudice holds a special place in my heart for always. Even though I haven't read all her work before I still, as an avid romance reader, appreciate all she did to put the romance genre on the map and give it a semblance of respectability in the eyes of those who'd love nothing more than to shove the entire genre off a cliff at the earliest convenience. That said, even as someone who hasn't read the books, I had no problem following along with the references to her works, historical tidbits, and in-depth discussions by the characters. So, if you're like me, don't let that scare you away from picking up this brilliant novel.
The Jane Austen Society is an homage to a brilliant, world-renowned author told through the eyes of a farmer, a widow, a doctor, a lawyer, and other charming inhabitants of the small town in which Austen used to live and wish to keep Austen alive and well in the minds and hearts of her fans. The book is chocked full of Austen history, quotes, and book-related discussions that will have even the biggest fans muttering to themselves, "Well, I didn't know that about her". Author Natalie Jenner takes the reader on a journey that mixes history and fiction, weaving an elaborate tale of love, friendship and, well... Austen.
I'm an abnormally fast reader and it's not unusual for me to read two or even three romance novels in a day, but The Jane Austen Society was the first book in a long time to make me want to slow down and take my time appreciating the references to a beloved author, picking apart the scenes like one might with an Austen novel (or movie), and getting to know the characters as friends, rather than fictional beings. Each time I opened the book I found myself immediately transported to Chawton, Hampshire in the 1940s where I lived among the charming townspeople, the beautiful setting, and the endless amounts of Austen admiration.
A heart-warming tale perfect for romance-lovers, romance novel readers, and romance-inspired people who want to take a break from their present and live a different life... if only for a little bit.
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