Pages: 320 pages
Published: May 26, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Austenesque Fiction
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.
Have you ever encountered a book or an author that was your immediate “go-to” when life has gotten you down? For me, it is, of course, Jane Austen. From my very first encounter of her, Austen’s words and wit managed to bring me joy and solace in my hours of need. There are not that many authors that can convey such a powerful emotion and Austen have the elite honor of being in that category. When readers have that immense passion for an author they believe is a literary marvel, they throw their energy in preserving their legacy. The Jane Austen Society depicts that passion in this cozy, heartwarming narrative.
This was just one delightful novel, a wonderfully uplifting read that is perfect to have during a pandemic and I am not just saying that because this book revolves around Jane Austen. She may be the central theme and what makes these group of characters come together, it is more than just about Austen. It is about the power of books, power of reading, having the great capacity to bring people together. I always knew that this power existed but to see it depicted in such a beautiful way. When in a time of chaos, it is so comforting to read about a group of people coming together.
The characters were both personable and relatable. Although a group of various personalities, you will have no problem forming a connection with them. If you are looking for the “three or four families in a country village”, then this is the book for you. I have a hard time picking which one character one was my favorite because they were all just so delightful. But if I had to choose, I would pick Evie. Her diligent work in spending the night cataloguing the books in the library and her enthusiasm for discovering new items was just an inspiration. It reminded me of my school work in library school. She also gets to spend nights in a library. She is the envy of any bibliophile!
The nonlinear storytelling may deter some people and may have some difficulty getting into the story, however, that should not deter people from giving this book a try. The flow of the language used makes you feel like you are reading an Austen novel, but not solely. Jenner manages to channel Austen’s wit and sense of place in her writing. Her storytelling may not be a complete match to Austen’s style but the way she tells this uplifting story that Janeites will have a hard time not enjoying this book.
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a nice treat to read, especially when you are snuggled up in bed and a cup of tea. In a time where we have to be social distancing, The Jane Austen Society transported me to another time and place, something we all need when the real world is not making sense at the moment. The courage, kindness and perseverance in the wake of grief and loss is just the inspirational narrative we need to read more often. This book isn’t just for Austen fans, however, the passionate fans will find great enjoyment in this book, and as they do with Austen’s novels, they will return to it more and more, to make sure to savour its goodness and serenity for years to come.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 star
I want to also plug the audiobook, which is narrated by Richard Armitage. He captures the work so beautifully and does an amazing job! If you have the opportunity to listen to the audiobook, you should definitely take it!