Audiobook Review: The Jane Austen Society

24 Jun

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.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

 

Natalie Jenner is the 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.

 

My Impressions:

I heard about The Jane Austen Society from a number of sources, but it was my bookish friends who raved about this book that made me give it a go. I love Jane Austen, as well as all of the re-imaginings and variations on her books and life. This novel seemed to be one destined for me. I chose the audiobook version because I have lots to do this summer and need to squeeze my pleasure reads into any available time I can find. So I listened while I walked, cooked, and managed other chores and errands. I flew through it! It captured my attention and imagination immediately. So, thanks to all who recommended it.

The book is a fictional account of a small group of people who want to preserve Jane Austen’s home and legacy for future generations. The characters are extremely varied, having little in common except for the impact Austen has had on their lives. Jenner creates an ensemble cast that you will take into your heart. I can’t even say I have a favorite among them — the main characters are all so wonderful. The story details a good deal of sadness, disappointments, regrets, and heartaches. I admit that I was wondering if I was ever going to get to anything happy. 😉 If you feel that way too, stick with this book. You won’t be sad or disappointed. Although you don’t have to be an Austen fan to enjoy this book, it just might prompt you to pick up those unread novels. There are plenty of references to Austen’s books and parallels between Austen’s characters and Jenner’s. True Janeites are apt to swoon. 😉 It is really hard to believe this is a debut novel. The complex construction, plotting, and heartfelt storytelling are masterful. And the epilogue? Brilliant!

One thing to note: this is a general market book, so there is some adult language and situations that some may find offensive. I am not a fan of the use of a certain word, but it was used sparingly and by a particularly odious character. Richard Armitage is the narrator — he does a great job with the variety of voices.

Recommended (with adult language/situation warning)

Audience: adults

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

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