Summary (from the publisher):
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.
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
The Jane Austen Society caught my eye for its comparisons to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – a book and Netflix movie so many of my book blogging friends have loved. Taking place in the village Jane Austen spent her last years in, the novel follows a group of people who are all struggling with loss and turn to Jane Austen’s novels for comfort. An eclectic mix of people who could not be more different, – a doctor and a movie star included – they band together to preserve Jane Austen’s last home.
The Jane Austen Society is a really cozy read that will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction meets women’s fiction type novels, although the book is set after World War II. Readers who love Jane Austen nearly as much as these characters will also eat this one up. The book follows at least eight different main characters, but Natalie Jenner provides an intimate perspective for each of them. All of the characters have experienced loss and tragedy in their own way. The novel is really about them growing through each other’s support and community. I think I preferred certain characters to others – I honestly could have a book all about Dr. Gray and Adeline and their relationship.
A Hollywood movie star on the cusp of her career, I also enjoyed Mimi’s perspective, but sometimes had difficulty gaining a read on her relationship with her produce finance, Jack. There a lot of blooming relationships between the characters, and I had trouble determining who had feelings for each other. I don’t know if Natalie Jenner does this on purpose though to leave the reader guessing for the final result. I’ve seen this mentioned in a few other reviews, but Mimi’s storyline does have this #MeToo atmosphere surrounding it (obviously the movement didn’t materialize until the 2010s), but Mimi is sick of how she’s expected to cater to her male colleagues’ desires in order to advance her career. The daughter of the owner of the estate, Frances’ storyline also invokes how females were treated compare to males during the time.
Would have I enjoyed The Jane Austen Society more if I had read a Jane Austen book? Maybe? The novel isn’t overwhelmingly filled with Austen references. Rather, the characters sometimes get into conversations with one another over their favorite Austen books and her characters’ motivation. They often draw similarities between themselves and Austen’s characters. That being said, while it didn’t really influence my overall impression of the book or leave me feeling out of the plot, I think Austen fans might have a bigger appreciation for this book. For those who haven’t read Austen, readers will appreciate the British village atmosphere and the book’s sense of community.
Overall, I think The Jane Austen Society will usher in a new wave of Jane Austen readers and influence readers to reread their favorite book of hers.
The Jane Austen Society comes out on May 26, 2020.
This review is based on an advance readers’ edition provided by the publisher. By no means did this affect my thoughts and opinions.
Are you a Jane Austen fan? What is your favorite Jane Austen book? Is The Jane Austen Society on your TBR? Share in the comments!