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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Jane Austen Society

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” That is my favorite Jane Austen quote. I love her books. I loved her memorable characters. Elizabeth Bennet is always gonna be one of my favorite literature characters. And thanks to Colin Firth made me re-watch a million times of his version of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy ( When I saw him playing Mr. Darcy at Bridget Jones I just scream cried a lot!) So of course I got volunteered to read anything ab “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid” That is my favorite Jane Austen quote. I love her books. I loved her memorable characters. Elizabeth Bennet is always gonna be one of my favorite literature characters. And thanks to Colin Firth made me re-watch a million times of his version of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy ( When I saw him playing Mr. Darcy at Bridget Jones I just scream cried a lot!) So of course I got volunteered to read anything about Jane Austen as a tribute of her achievements and amazing works. And I have to admit I enjoyed most part of the books. There are lots of characters (I think they are 12 and it makes you lose your concentration a little bit. Some parts bored me a little bit because of slowing pace and too many unnecessary details about characters’ daily lives) but I think I loved Jane Austen novels’ role and impressions at those characters’ lives more than the characters’ back stories and I loved their discussions about Austen books which were remarkable journey to her books and her unforgettable, well-rounded, splendid characters. And yes, a movie star got threatened and sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein. (All right, I just want to check, you really read my review! I heard you! Of course Harvey wasn’t born yet andunfortunately there was no #metoomovement at this time) So she bought Jane Austen’s family mention from the auction and as soon as she reached the town, she forms a special literary group to honor this incredible author’s memory. A doctor, a teacher, a farmer and people from different background come together for their love of books and good literature, discussing about the stories, characters and how mush those books shaped their lives and meant for them. The idea about special Jane Austen club (first rule of the club is only talk about JA books and second rule is the same!) and some of the characters were good. Interestingly when I read Dr. Gray’s part I imagined as Patrick Dempsey in my head. ( Yes, Meredith Grey, Derek Shepherd and those stylish amazing hair popped into my head. I wish my husband had them, too. And this is my cue to stop drinking.) I didn’t find it his and Adeline’s slow burn romance offensive or disturbing. Both of them lost their loved ones and their passion to the books helped them connect easily. They helped each other to ease their pains and fight against their grief. And yes, from the beginning, Dr.Gray saw the engagement ring at Adeline’s finger, it was so obvious that he didn’t like her relationship status. Overall: Writing is good. At some parts, I lost my interest and wanted to skip some chapters but the parts about Austen books rekindled my love to her writing. The conclusion of characters’ stories are also satisfying. So this book is above the average and I’m rounding up my 3.5 stars to 4 and smiling with the memories of those wonderful books. Special thanks to NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for sending me this heart felting, beautiful book’s ARC COPY in exchange my honest review. I truly and mostly enjoyed it. blog instagram facebook twitter

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I picked up this book solely because it had Jane Austen’s name in the title and I’m an avid fan of her works. The first few chapters are spent bringing in all the characters and I wasn’t at all sure what I had signed up for. A farm laborer, a doctor, an actress, a school teacher. What could these folks have in common? Well, it turns out it’s a love for Jane Austen and a desire to preserve her home and legacy in the town of Chawton. This is a sweet, cozy, historical fiction. Don’t go into it expe I picked up this book solely because it had Jane Austen’s name in the title and I’m an avid fan of her works. The first few chapters are spent bringing in all the characters and I wasn’t at all sure what I had signed up for. A farm laborer, a doctor, an actress, a school teacher. What could these folks have in common? Well, it turns out it’s a love for Jane Austen and a desire to preserve her home and legacy in the town of Chawton. This is a sweet, cozy, historical fiction. Don’t go into it expecting to learn a lot. It’s much more focused on the imaginary characters than anything about the time or place. We have two strong willed heroines, the handsome cad, the good doctor, the spinster and so on. As with Austen’s own works, there are several unrequited loves and the fun is to see how they work themselves out. There are other parts of the story that echo back to Austen’s books, including the sharing of a name by the “boob”, as Evie calls him, of the story. I recommend it for folks that like Rhys Bowen. I would not recommend it for those that aren’t fans of Austen. Another positive note is that this book propelled me to listen to an audio version of Emma. My thanks to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    marilyn

    Published May 26, 2020 There is so much here for fans of Jane Austen's works and her history. Jane's family is known to have destroyed hundreds, maybe thousands, of Jane's private correspondence, in an effort to control Jane's image or reputation, after she died. This novel is fiction so we don't learn anything more about Jane's life but it's a pleasure to read a book that incorporates so much of Jane's wit, intelligence, and love of her characters. The book starts every slowly and it takes time Published May 26, 2020 There is so much here for fans of Jane Austen's works and her history. Jane's family is known to have destroyed hundreds, maybe thousands, of Jane's private correspondence, in an effort to control Jane's image or reputation, after she died. This novel is fiction so we don't learn anything more about Jane's life but it's a pleasure to read a book that incorporates so much of Jane's wit, intelligence, and love of her characters. The book starts every slowly and it takes time to see how various characters will fit together but they mesh so well, once the book hits its stride.  Most of the book takes place in the mid 1940s, when eight people come together to form the Jane Austen Society. Some, in this group of people, have encountered unbearable grief and loss, but the love of Austen's work has carried them through their days and nights and brought this diverse group together. Jane's final home was in Chawton and the little cottage where she lived and the former mansion of her brother, with over 3000 valuable books and heirlooms of Jane's family, are about to be lost, when the last heir to the Chawton estate dies.  Among the eight cofounders of the group is a grieving widowed doctor, a young widow ex school teacher, a farmhand, a maid, a relative of Jane's, a famous actress, and a solicitor. As with Jane's work, there are misunderstandings and words unsaid among couples who may have loved each other or could love each other and even the characters, at times, are able to see themselves in Jane's works, if only they will open their eyes. This was such a slow, pleasant story, despite the loss and hardships many of the characters have endured. And the story finds it way to an ending that is so satisfying in how it mirrors many of Austen's best works.  Thank you to St. Martin's Press/Macmillan and Edelweiss for this ARC. 

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    3.5 Stars Set primarily in Chawton, a village in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life, Chawton has been the home of the Jane Austen’s House Museum since 1946. This debut novel covers the 1930’s through the mid 1940’s, and imagines how this came to be. Still, you don’t need to be a fan of Jane Austen’s books to read this, but if you’re not a fan before you read this, it may entice you to read more of her books. I loved the setti 3.5 Stars Set primarily in Chawton, a village in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England where Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life, Chawton has been the home of the Jane Austen’s House Museum since 1946. This debut novel covers the 1930’s through the mid 1940’s, and imagines how this came to be. Still, you don’t need to be a fan of Jane Austen’s books to read this, but if you’re not a fan before you read this, it may entice you to read more of her books. I loved the setting of this story, and the era, which offers an aura of the time as women were just beginning to refuse to return to a life that offered them more than just life as a housewife following the war. Still, this is a 1940’s view of the beginning of change, as it should be. I enjoyed this even more than I thought I would, it offered a nice change of pace from the books I read more often. And, for a change, I agree with the “for fans of” recommendation of this to those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as it has that kind of charm, plus some wonderful characters, including an American movie star who is a fan of Austen, her fiancée who is also involved in making movies, a doctor, as well as a descendant of Jane Austen, and a village full of characters who come together to form the Jane Austen Society, in order to preserve her legacy. Pub Date: 26 May 2020 Many thanks for the ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press

  5. 5 out of 5

    JEN A

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. The release date for this book is 26 May 2020 This is a very cozy story which spans the time between World War I and right after World War II. To truly have a full appreciation of the book you really must be a Jane Austen fan. The author quotes a lot from her books including pride and prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Her main characters are very likable and she truly sets the stag I received an advanced copy of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review. The release date for this book is 26 May 2020 This is a very cozy story which spans the time between World War I and right after World War II. To truly have a full appreciation of the book you really must be a Jane Austen fan. The author quotes a lot from her books including pride and prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. Her main characters are very likable and she truly sets the stage for how life must have been in England during this time period.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway win!! 3.5 Stars Reading Rush: A book that will make you smile Well The Jane Austen Society did make me smile. It was nice to read something light and mostly cheery. This is the second Jane Austen related book I've read but I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read a Jane Austen novel. I've always intended to but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. The Jane Austen Society takes place in 1940's England. A group of vastly different people are brought together by they're love of Jane Aust Giveaway win!! 3.5 Stars Reading Rush: A book that will make you smile Well The Jane Austen Society did make me smile. It was nice to read something light and mostly cheery. This is the second Jane Austen related book I've read but I'm ashamed to admit that I've never read a Jane Austen novel. I've always intended to but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. The Jane Austen Society takes place in 1940's England. A group of vastly different people are brought together by they're love of Jane Austen. Together they will fight to save a home that Jane Austen once lived and wrote some of her novels. The Jane Austen Society was a carefree read but the ending was rushed. Natalie Jenner took her time in building these characters and their world only to speed through the last 60 pages. Overall I liked this book but I didn't love it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Overflowing with references to Austen’s characters and literature, this will be the perfect read for lovers of her work and those looking for a country village cozy read. The plot line could have easily come from Austen’s own quill with characters that oozed charm, this novel explores the relationships and secrets of those living in this quaint town. The dialogue is not quite as humorous as Austen’s, but the observations and nods to social mores are all there. ’And that’s exactly what Austen give Overflowing with references to Austen’s characters and literature, this will be the perfect read for lovers of her work and those looking for a country village cozy read. The plot line could have easily come from Austen’s own quill with characters that oozed charm, this novel explores the relationships and secrets of those living in this quaint town. The dialogue is not quite as humorous as Austen’s, but the observations and nods to social mores are all there. ’And that’s exactly what Austen gives us. A world so a part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic. Even with so many flawed and even silly characters, it all makes sense in the end. It may be the most sense we’ll ever get to make out of our own messed-up world. That’s why she lasts, like Shakespeare. It’s all in there, all of life, all the stuff that counts, and keeps counting, all the way to here, to you.’ What I most appreciated were the insights into Austen's writing and enduring appeal. And while wholly fictional, the places, artifacts and the Jane Austen Society written in this story do exist and might spark an interest in visiting Chawton House some day. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the gift of this ARC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    Prepare to meet the "three or four families in a country village," and a Hollywood movie star, who embrace their passion and form a literary society in honor of an author whose enduring appeal, after 200 years, reminds us of what should be paramount in our lives: compassion, love, and reading! The Jane Austen Society is an uplifting tribute to its inspiration and the nobility of the human spirit. -- Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    Exquisite! "They" say that imitation is the deepest form of flattery. Yes, indeed it is, as you will observe when you read this lovely story. I am not a romance fan, so this is truly high praise. The interesting characters and their mutual love for both Jane Austen, as a person, and her body of work draws them together in a quest to create a memorial of some type in tribute to her work and her talent. As they share their passion for the writings and characters set in Austen's time (late 1700's to Exquisite! "They" say that imitation is the deepest form of flattery. Yes, indeed it is, as you will observe when you read this lovely story. I am not a romance fan, so this is truly high praise. The interesting characters and their mutual love for both Jane Austen, as a person, and her body of work draws them together in a quest to create a memorial of some type in tribute to her work and her talent. As they share their passion for the writings and characters set in Austen's time (late 1700's to early 1800's), they see themselves more clearly and one another. Love is in the air Austen style! For those of you, who "don't do romance", I promise this isn't today's romance. It isn't trashy or full of sexually steamy flirtations and sex scenes. This is a story of wanting and needing to be loved and loving others to the point of wanting what is best for them, even if it isn't for you. It is about understanding what makes another person spark and appreciating their unique traits rather than their superfluous characteristics that others use to define them. The writing was glorious. We observed each key player in their environs with great interest as they spoke or acted out of their motivations. Ms. Jenner is supremely talented in creating a scene and people that you can see as if you were spying on them! As we observe the leaves falling, and a quiet walk along a path, we sense the inhibitions and the words not spoken by each unfulfilled heart. Be patient, dear reader for in Austen style, you will be rewarded. Even if romance isn't your thing, perhaps this delightful story can bring a smile to your face. Cheerio! Thank you to the author, publisher and Goodreads for affording me an opportunity to read this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. P.S. I would like to add, I never considered myself a Jane Austen fan, due to the fact that I was not guided toward her writings in school. Living in the Deep South (at least in my area), there wasn't a big urgency to contemplate the greats. Sadly, as I age I realize how cheated I have been, and I will make greater efforts to compensate for the deficiencies. Point of fact, I haven't even read Austen or the Brontes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4-5 stars rounded up. Let me take you to Chawton, Hampshire in the 1940’s. A village where everyone know everyone, a microcosm of society, perhaps even like living in a goldfish bowl but which so aptly mirrors a world that Jane Austen depicted so incisively and wryly. After Janes brother inherited Chawton House she lived there with her mother and sister in a cottage provided by him for the last eight years of her life. Living in this archetypal English village 130 years later are a number of res 4-5 stars rounded up. Let me take you to Chawton, Hampshire in the 1940’s. A village where everyone know everyone, a microcosm of society, perhaps even like living in a goldfish bowl but which so aptly mirrors a world that Jane Austen depicted so incisively and wryly. After Janes brother inherited Chawton House she lived there with her mother and sister in a cottage provided by him for the last eight years of her life. Living in this archetypal English village 130 years later are a number of residents all suffering varying degrees of loss and pain, who are drawn together by a shared passion for Jane Austen. Add in a Hollywood actress who shares their enthusiasm, her businessman fiancé who has no soul and a father whose maliciousness knows no bounds and you have the formation of the Jane Austen Society. There is a lot I like about this book. First of all, because of the principal focus being the characters shared love of Austen it’s like books within a book. Their joint passion for preserving the writers heritage though her books and possessions shines through the pages. Secondly, I love the reminder of Austen’s works which these characters share with each other and through which they find solace for their pain. There are a lot of characters in this book but I think this is appropriate as so do Austen’s works. The language used matches the period of time although there is the occasional 21st idiom! I love all the characters that Natalie Jenner has created here and if I had to pick one out I’d select Frances Knight who bore her father’s meanness with such dignity and resilience although that’s not to say it does not cost her dearly. I love the interplay between Dr Gray and Adeline Lewis which was very Austenesque. The 1940’s is captured well as is the post war atmosphere and the engaging writing transports you back in time to a world still reeling from the effects of two terrible wars. There is the occasional cliffhanger, a shock or two and a whole range of emotions evoked though it all finishes up happily in true Austen tradition. Overall, I love the concept of the book, it pays a worthy tribute to a truly great author for which I congratulate Natalie Jenner. It is very well written and it allows you to escape to an Austen like world and I think we could all do with a bit of that right now. I love Jane Austen so this book is a winner for me but it has huge appeal in its own right. Highly recommended. Special thanks to NetGalley and Orion for the ARC.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3.5] A pleasurable read, geared to Jane Austen fans. Set in 1940s Chawton where Austen spent the last years of her life, the novel focuses on a disparate group of Austen devotees. There were a few minor plot holes but overall quite satisfying. Thank you to St. Martin's Press for the ARC.

  12. 4 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    So many of us love Jane Austen. Her books are classics and her stories have found their way to the movie screen so many times that her characters now feel like old friends. If you are a fan, there is so much to enjoy in The Jane Austen Society. Set in Chawton, the Hampshire village where Austen lived out her short life, a group of lonely and sad people come together in 1945 to transform a cottage on Austen’s brother’s family estate into a museum as a tribute to the author’s legacy. The people who So many of us love Jane Austen. Her books are classics and her stories have found their way to the movie screen so many times that her characters now feel like old friends. If you are a fan, there is so much to enjoy in The Jane Austen Society. Set in Chawton, the Hampshire village where Austen lived out her short life, a group of lonely and sad people come together in 1945 to transform a cottage on Austen’s brother’s family estate into a museum as a tribute to the author’s legacy. The people who come together form the heart of this touching story. We meet a doctor who is grieving over the loss of his wife. He serves the entire village yet who is helping him? A Hollywood actress is a huge fan of Jane Austen. While a huge star, she knows that she is aging and younger actresses will soon replace her. The daughter of the owner of the estate has given up her life to care for her father, who cruelly sabotaged any hope for love and happiness. A farmer who had to give up his dreams of college when his brothers were killed in the war. An incredibly smart 16-year girl who works at the estate. A young English teacher who has faced a series of losses. A lawyer handling the estate’s affairs and a man from Sotheby’s who is entranced by all things Austen. Throughout the book, many favorite Austen characters are referenced and parallels are drawn to the members of the group and their own lives. Author Natalie Jenner, in an impressive debut, paints a perfect picture of the setting. You can fully envision the surroundings of Chawton. Enjoy. Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and the author for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this lovely book. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Corina

    I’ll admit right away, that historical fiction is not a genre I usual read. I like my historical fiction to be on the lighter side. Less heart-breaking, more uplifting, and most of the historical fiction books I read so far are the opposite of that. BUT both Guernsey and The Jane Austen Society delivered on the uplifting feel. The book is FULL of characters, I stopped counting, but there are at least 7 that are prominently featured in the book. They are all wonderfully endearing, and very likable I’ll admit right away, that historical fiction is not a genre I usual read. I like my historical fiction to be on the lighter side. Less heart-breaking, more uplifting, and most of the historical fiction books I read so far are the opposite of that. BUT both Guernsey and The Jane Austen Society delivered on the uplifting feel. The book is FULL of characters, I stopped counting, but there are at least 7 that are prominently featured in the book. They are all wonderfully endearing, and very likable. And the way they all came together, forming the society and becoming friends was utterly charming. And of course there is some romance in the air. The beginning of the book was a bit slow for me, until I got to know the characters and got invested in each of them. I was rooting for them throughout the book, hoping it would all end well, and as with most of Jane Austen books, all characters, and events have a kind of purpose to it. I really enjoyed the author’s writing. She managed to convey the time period, and the vintage feel perfectly. last thoughts This book is a feel good novel and was rather enjoyable. The audiobook was narrated by Richard Armitage (FYI he played the dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit). All I’ll say is that his voice was fantastic – ‘chef’s kiss’!!! The novel is a lighthearted, charming story about all things Jane Austen. And I can actually see myself going on a vacation trailing in Jane Austen’s wake, visiting Chawton in Hampshire, Bath, and Gravetye Manor. ___________________________________ Find more reviews and book recommendations on my blog. Find me on Bookstagram.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    A heartwarming, gently paced tale set in the 1940's English village, Chawton, that will delight many readers. When I spotted the title, I pictured a much different story- one that had a modern group of eclectic people sipping their wine or tea, discussing Austen’s works and eventually their personal lives. But, then I noticed the blurb and a spark of excitement leaped in me because this wasn’t ‘a’ Jane Austen society (or book club or fan club) this was ‘THE’ Jane Austen Society as in a fictional A heartwarming, gently paced tale set in the 1940's English village, Chawton, that will delight many readers. When I spotted the title, I pictured a much different story- one that had a modern group of eclectic people sipping their wine or tea, discussing Austen’s works and eventually their personal lives. But, then I noticed the blurb and a spark of excitement leaped in me because this wasn’t ‘a’ Jane Austen society (or book club or fan club) this was ‘THE’ Jane Austen Society as in a fictional account of the very first one set in her home village of Chawton, no less, during the Post-WWII period. The story gets its inauspicious start when a tired farmer, Adam Berwick, clumps along his path home to the village and takes a short cut through the church graveyard for a bit of quiet time to himself only to encounter a gorgeous woman with the enthusiasm of a fangirl looking for bits of her favorite authoress, Jane Austen. The encounter is like the drop of a stone into a pond. Softly, gently goes the stone in and gradually the ripples form and the waves expand outward when first Adam, then bittersweet Dr. Gray, and pert school teacher who went through personal tragedy, Adeline Grover, are introduced. They form the casual bookclub that grows into something more as others and their stories are added. A society of people from all walks of life forms to protect and introduce the heritage of a small village authoress whose books are timeless to a world needing to rediscover a literary great. The Jane Austen Society starts slow and starts with a few voices to build into a full and rich cast that I enjoyed meeting and found each of them interesting. The pace marches steadily as the conflict becomes known and is taunt with a quiet tension by the end though yes, it could lag a tad in the middle spots. The backstories build into the present to reveal people with private struggles and also a few romances that follow the pattern of some of those in Austen’s books. It was a beautiful, poignant piece that left me vested in the characters and the author who inspired them. I had the urge to find the nearest Jane Austen Society chapter and hope it would feel the same as this lovely group. Those who enjoy 20th Century Historical Fiction with a gentle character-driven plot should definitely give this a go. My thanks to St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for my honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    I have just finished reading The Jane Austen Society, by author Natalie Jenner I am giving this book 2.5 stars The story takes place in a small village in England – Chawton, just after the war. The author creates a feeling much like the writing style of Jane Austen, and the storyline surrounds a group of Jane Austen fans, who want to preserve the home of the famous author The book makes me want to read more beautiful Jane Austen books, but I found the storyline a bit simple and lacking of lustre Howe I have just finished reading The Jane Austen Society, by author Natalie Jenner I am giving this book 2.5 stars The story takes place in a small village in England – Chawton, just after the war. The author creates a feeling much like the writing style of Jane Austen, and the storyline surrounds a group of Jane Austen fans, who want to preserve the home of the famous author The book makes me want to read more beautiful Jane Austen books, but I found the storyline a bit simple and lacking of lustre However a rather lovely book Thanks to St. Martin's Press, NetGalley, and the Author for an early release in exchange for my honest opinions and review #TheJaneAustenSociety #NetGalley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Oh my goodness, “The Jane Austen Society” is one of the sweetest novels I’ve read in a while. It’s well written; it has a heartwarming character cast; it has a pace that keeps you engaged in the tiny group who love Jane Austen. I am not a Jane Austen scholar, but nonetheless I truly enjoyed this read. For those of you who are familiar with Ms Austen, you will find the references to her novels enjoyable. Each character of this novel enjoys different Austen characters for their own reasons. The set Oh my goodness, “The Jane Austen Society” is one of the sweetest novels I’ve read in a while. It’s well written; it has a heartwarming character cast; it has a pace that keeps you engaged in the tiny group who love Jane Austen. I am not a Jane Austen scholar, but nonetheless I truly enjoyed this read. For those of you who are familiar with Ms Austen, you will find the references to her novels enjoyable. Each character of this novel enjoys different Austen characters for their own reasons. The setting is in the tiny village of Chawton; the village where jane Austen died. The last of Austen’s family members is about to die, and that member is not a fan of Austen’s works. All her historical artifacts are at risk to being lost. A cast of unlikely Austen literature lovers come together to try and salvage her legacy and work. This is not a light and fluffy read with eccentric characters running amok. All the characters have been devastated by war and/or death. They are formidable characters, much akin to Austen’s characters. This is more than a charming read. It’s a literature lovers read with a realistic ending.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    When I spotted the title, I pictured a much different story- one that had a modern group of eclectic people sipping their wine or tea, discussing Austen’s works and eventually their personal lives. But, then I noticed the blurb and a spark of excitement leaped in me because this wasn’t ‘a’ Jane Austen society (or book club or fan club) this was ‘THE’ Jane Austen Society as in a fictional account of the very first one set in her home village of Chawton, no less, during the Post-WWII period. I was When I spotted the title, I pictured a much different story- one that had a modern group of eclectic people sipping their wine or tea, discussing Austen’s works and eventually their personal lives. But, then I noticed the blurb and a spark of excitement leaped in me because this wasn’t ‘a’ Jane Austen society (or book club or fan club) this was ‘THE’ Jane Austen Society as in a fictional account of the very first one set in her home village of Chawton, no less, during the Post-WWII period. I was now deeply interested and took up my earbuds to enjoy the melodious voice of Richard Armitage tell me the story of The Jane Austen Society. The story gets its inauspicious start when a tired farmer, Adam Berwick, clumps along his path home to the village and takes a short cut through the church graveyard for a bit of quiet time to himself only to encounter a gorgeous woman with the enthusiasm of a fangirl looking for bits of her favorite authoress, Jane Austen. The encounter is like the drop of a stone into a pond. Softly, gently goes the stone in and gradually the ripples form and the waves expand outward when first Adam, then bittersweet Dr. Gray, and pert school teacher who went through personal tragedy, Adeline Grover, are introduced. They form the casual bookclub that grows into something more as others and their stories are added. A society of people from all walks of life forms to protect and introduce the heritage of a small village authoress whose books are timeless to a world needing to rediscover a literary great. The Jane Austen Society starts slow and starts with a few voices to build into a full and rich cast that I enjoyed meeting and found each of them interesting. The pace marches steadily as the conflict becomes known and is taunt with a quiet tension by the end though yes, it could lag a tad in the middle spots. The backstories build into the present to reveal people with private struggles and also a few romances that follow the pattern of some of those in Austen’s books. Already a tremendous fan of Richard Armitage acting and narration works, I thought his mellow and easy-paced voice matched the tone and writing style, splendidly. He wielded the voices and emotions of the large cast of main characters so well that I never got lost when the characters took turns being in the spotlight. He made an already strong story even better. It was a beautiful, poignant piece that left me vested in the characters and the author who inspired them. I had the urge to find the nearest Jane Austen Society chapter and hope it would feel the same as this lovely group. Those who enjoy 20th Century Historical Fiction with a gentle character-driven plot should definitely give this a go. My thanks to Macmillan Audio for the opportunity to listen to the book in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. What does a Hollywood actress, a widowed doctor, a farmer, a school teacher and a lonely descendant of the author have in common? A love for all Jane Austen's novels, of course! In the village of Chawton, a society is born and a group of charming characters who are immune to how their lives parallel the characters they so adore. Honestly, I will read any book about Jane Austen and that is very apparent f Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review. What does a Hollywood actress, a widowed doctor, a farmer, a school teacher and a lonely descendant of the author have in common? A love for all Jane Austen's novels, of course! In the village of Chawton, a society is born and a group of charming characters who are immune to how their lives parallel the characters they so adore. Honestly, I will read any book about Jane Austen and that is very apparent from a quick glance at my shelves. This debut novel has me taking the eye off my pile of books to be read and craving to return to my beloved Jane's literary world. Consider me the newest member of The Jane Austen Society Goodreads review published 10/05/20 Expected publication Date. 26/05/20

  19. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Fans of Jane Austen's books might well enjoy this story about a group of second world war townsfolk who unite to preserve the small home and monuments that drew many visitors to the small town of Chawton, Jane Austen's final resting place. I could see elements of Austen's stories played out in this novel. Bits and pieces of the plots of Emma, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice - all lent a h My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Fans of Jane Austen's books might well enjoy this story about a group of second world war townsfolk who unite to preserve the small home and monuments that drew many visitors to the small town of Chawton, Jane Austen's final resting place. I could see elements of Austen's stories played out in this novel. Bits and pieces of the plots of Emma, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice - all lent a hand in developing a few of the several characters' story lines. As I said at the outset, fans of Jane Austen's works might enjoy this decently written walk down memory lane. Many of the characters did not come across as real to me. I felt distanced from them because they were a bit one-dimensional. A fair amount of telling and not showing also was to blame for this, I think. For these reasons, I rate this a 3.5 out of 5.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    I loved this book! I cannot believe that this novel is a debut. It was brilliant! I simply am addicted to this book and Natalie Jenner's phenomenal writing. Is it the name of the book where anything Jane Austen I must love and gravitate too? Is it the amazing book cover that just brings me back to simpler times? Is it the motley crew of characters that are so different they make up the perfect society? Well, it is everything! I love every bit of this from the historical background, and the charac I loved this book! I cannot believe that this novel is a debut. It was brilliant! I simply am addicted to this book and Natalie Jenner's phenomenal writing. Is it the name of the book where anything Jane Austen I must love and gravitate too? Is it the amazing book cover that just brings me back to simpler times? Is it the motley crew of characters that are so different they make up the perfect society? Well, it is everything! I love every bit of this from the historical background, and the characters' solidarity in rallying together as they endure their own difficulties and creating something absolutely remarkable. I also did read this and listen to the @librofm narration by Richard Armitage which was absolutely phenomenal. It really did give so much more to the story hearing Armitage read to me. It added so much more to my reading experience. I am a huge fan of Austen's work and loved the quotes and the incorporation of Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility throughout the story. This was a great escape read, that was also charming and beautiful. It is a story about people with hurt, suffering from loss and are real people with real struggles. I loved that I was able to relate with the characters. The writing was beautifully researched and was rich in detail that I really enjoyed. I am a fan of Jenner's writing and look forward to her future novels. I cannot stop talking about this fantastic historical fiction novel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    The Jane Austen Society This delightful name-dropping book was made doubly so by the many Austen characters referred to, mentioned, and even comparisons made with the fictional characters of this tale. It was enough to make a reader thrill with inner yelps of “Oooo! Oooo! I know this! I know this!” Austen fans will approve heartily, I predict. The story unfolds in a very Austen fashion. . . so many reasons things are as they are and always will be and it is hopeless to think otherwise, and about The Jane Austen Society This delightful name-dropping book was made doubly so by the many Austen characters referred to, mentioned, and even comparisons made with the fictional characters of this tale. It was enough to make a reader thrill with inner yelps of “Oooo! Oooo! I know this! I know this!” Austen fans will approve heartily, I predict. The story unfolds in a very Austen fashion. . . so many reasons things are as they are and always will be and it is hopeless to think otherwise, and about there I wondered and sighed, thinking perhaps a dead end – all these pairings withered, or undone, or mismatched, or mournful. . .how could anything fix this? My sighs stopped sighing tho, when Evie Stone steps in with her 16-year old relentlessness and will not suffer fools, doddering, lace-covered or official. She gets to the heart of the matter, which is saving everything Austen at all costs, and if love happens, then it is Austen love and worth the price. My head bent in earnest as I finished this lark of a book, and willingly acknowledged it was becoming more historical romance than historical fiction, and even that could not turn me away from the last word spent by the author on this subject, and oh, dear reader, it ends well!! 5 stars, tea-soaked, peony strewn. A sincere thanks to Natalie Jenner, St. Martin’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rachel McMillan

    "But one can always read Austen " So there is a lot of Jane Austen out there right now. As there always is. And I don't begrudge anyone the love HOWEVER as someone who would love to see some of her other literary favourites (I am looking at you, miniseries of Villette) get attention, I often feel that every time I approach something Austen I will be seeing something I have seen before. For example, on first glance, you might look at this and think: hey! It's the Jane Austen Book Club 40s Style. Th "But one can always read Austen " So there is a lot of Jane Austen out there right now. As there always is. And I don't begrudge anyone the love HOWEVER as someone who would love to see some of her other literary favourites (I am looking at you, miniseries of Villette) get attention, I often feel that every time I approach something Austen I will be seeing something I have seen before. For example, on first glance, you might look at this and think: hey! It's the Jane Austen Book Club 40s Style. That is not the case. There are few cases, actually, where a writer decides to use fiction as a thesis-as an outlet to posit her reflections about her relationship with Austen as well as inspire us to think about Austen in a different way. With the exception of the excellent (if very different) "The Austen Escape" by Katherine Reay, and Charlie Lovett's "First Impressions", this is the height of wielding a literary figure's life and legacy to help us understand our own foils and foibles, trials and triumphs. Expertly researched with an immediately engaging narrative whose omniscient tendencies pull you in tight and are as warmly knitted as a cozy on a Brown Betty tea pot, The Austen Society never once talks down to its readers. It never goes over the plots of Austen like a bludgeon rather it assumes the initiated will fall head over heels with the treatment of their favourite Austen books and the uninitiated will be immediately inspired to dash and pick up the one or several books they missed. This book is told with a gentle philosophy and a cherished connection that welcomes the reader into a world shared by a common interest. More still, it beckons you to revisit Austen again beyond what we've turned her into. But moreover inspires you to read her in a new way. From servant girl to seductive film producer, the universal appeal of Austen is done in a focused way. We find Austen here not in the general but in the subtle and nuanced interpretations of timeless characters. If Austen's greatest strength is the humane appeal of her flawed and dimensional characters stretching centuries so they could easily fit into the wheel of whatever era is turning , so Jenner's thesis is that we are not unlike these faraway characters on a shelf. Their flaws and foibles triumphs and ultimate desire for love are what make her so resonant. Because we are Austen's characters. And she chooses to spotlight other people as equally humane and resounding in a world torn by war and death. Humanity. Through Austen, through tenuous connection and intentional community, Jenner recreates the same experience. Of lush rural settings like patchwork quilts dotted by sheep of grand estates and country parishes. Austen is always with us because we do not change. Not truly. Nor does our grief, nor do our hopes, nor do the little things that throw us off completely. Just as the rehearsal of a play mimics the courtship ritual in Mansfield Park ( "a bunch of young people half related to each other putting on a play so they can make out with all the people they are not supposed to"), so a hidden letter can shift the course of an estate's future. It deftly balances as homage to Austen in word and conversation and ode to Austen by replicating what is at the core of her stories. But perhaps, most powerfully, it is a call to revisit a textual world we've minimized to numerous adaptations. So many Jane Austen fans are fans of one interpretation of her work. This inspires you to tuck again beneath the pages and not allow a director or star to speak for the power of the slightest wordplay that will never transpose rightly to screen. In actress Mimi's inclusion and the Hollywood angle we see Jenner stating the case as a production of Sense and Sensibility (hilariously Willoughby heavy) takes fictional stage in a mirror of our own era's propensity to re-film these again and again. You see things form characters who teach you perspectives wrought of their own emotional intelligence similar social construct and personal histories. Jane Austen is a buoy for grief stricken hands reached out and the balm of laughter. She's the winsome wise sage and the matchmaker through the ache of nostalgia and the promise of something else. And it's constant. An anchor. It's the power of reading and escapism and the pages we turn until they're thin beneath our fingers: "It was so huge. It was as if a whole other world were inside him, so big that he couldn't see it without somehow getting completely out of his own way." And the book offers surprising vantage. Even a Hollywood scoundrel who wants to seduce women gets a turn at preconceived Austen notions while villagers who pass at church and Christmas functions in often silent communication finally find words when they can speak in Darcy and Pemberley, "obstinate, head strong girl" and Henry Crawford. The insight of each character into Austen is a gateway to understanding their dynamics and relationships. But also heightens their instinct and understanding of the relationships around them. Austen is the portal to interpreting a glance a comma placement in a letter a breath or a touch or an umbrella shared. She is the dictionary on a language of love and friendship that allows this society to rebuild the very finest of warm and compassion and ultimately human moments as they repair from a time when humans wrecked each other. The Austen Society is a restoration of love of literature of a small village slowly returning to its shrines to a great writer but also finding its character again. A community forged. Families chosen. Hearts exchanged. Food and clothing are rationed still. But these characters have something in bottomless abundance. But also a rallying cry to return to the source material as we spiral out in our modern media, a reminder that Austen is a sense of restoration and reconciliation especially here when pitted against a world trying to rebuild. "How real, how human she seems now!" Exactly--- in grief and relation--- in love and in loss---at the book end two horrible wars-- at the uncertainty of the future... From what was to me a glaringly new perspective on Anne Eliot's measurement of grief for her mother against her relationship with Wentworth, to the highlight of Knightley's careful consideration of Emma's unread reading list, it begs you to put Jonny Lee Miller away for just an afternoon in exchange for a trip back into the wit and wonder of Austen's words. "And that's exactly what Austen gives us. A world so part of our own, yet so separate that entering it is like some kind of tonic. Even with so many flawed and even silly characters, it all makes sense in the end. It may be the most sense we'll ever get to make out of our own messed up world." This human author reflects our humanity back to us through centuries and in the careful curation of her work and legacy, Natalie Jenner's resplendent debut does the same.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    *4.5 stars If you adore Jane Austen, and quiet novels about life than this is perfect for you. This take place during WWII and shortly after, in one of the last places that Jane Austen lived, Chawton, England. You have a motley crew of characters: an American actress, a doctor, a lawyer, a teenage girl, a teacher, a shy field worker, and even a descendant of Jane's. They are all of different ages, wealth, some grieve, some are too shy, and some have big ideas, but they all have one thing in commo *4.5 stars If you adore Jane Austen, and quiet novels about life than this is perfect for you. This take place during WWII and shortly after, in one of the last places that Jane Austen lived, Chawton, England. You have a motley crew of characters: an American actress, a doctor, a lawyer, a teenage girl, a teacher, a shy field worker, and even a descendant of Jane's. They are all of different ages, wealth, some grieve, some are too shy, and some have big ideas, but they all have one thing in common: they love Jane Austen. They all want to keep her memory and works alive so they come together to forge The Jane Austen Society. You get conversations about Jane's stories, about the different ways of dealing with grief, about everyday conversations that happen in a small town, and maybe even some romance. I really enjoyed this story and the characters. All it does is feed into my love of Austen and desperately wanting to go England. *Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    3 stars You can read all of my reviews at https://www.NerdGirlLovesBooks.com. This is a good, quiet historical fiction that follows the stories of several people in a small English town just after the Second World War that are drawn together by their love of Jane Austen novels. Jane Austen's final home was in the small English town of Chawton. Years later it's the home of a few distant relatives living on a diminishing estate. Several town people struggling with grief for different reasons join fo 3 stars You can read all of my reviews at https://www.NerdGirlLovesBooks.com. This is a good, quiet historical fiction that follows the stories of several people in a small English town just after the Second World War that are drawn together by their love of Jane Austen novels. Jane Austen's final home was in the small English town of Chawton. Years later it's the home of a few distant relatives living on a diminishing estate. Several town people struggling with grief for different reasons join forces in an effort to preserve Austen's legacy and home. Through their love of her novels, and the inspiration they draw from them, they slowly begin to heal. I also love Jane Austen novels and wanted to like this book, but it left me feeling just "meh". I'm glad I read it, but I won't remember much about it in a couple weeks. It was well-written, but didn't inspire me enough to get too invested in any of the characters. Despite the various tragedies that had befallen the characters, their pain seemed periphery to the story and wasn't as impactful as it could be. It's an overall good book, but just not too memorable. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Bok

    I should start with a few caveats. This is not a book about the real Jane Austen Society. Neither is it a traditional Austenesque novel, spinning new stories from Austen's characters. It is an odd hybrid that tells an invented story with real elements, using a real place to imagine an alternate history. If the reader approaches this novel with any preconceptions, he or she will waste time and focus. And that would be a pity, because the story that is actually told is both charming and touching. I I should start with a few caveats. This is not a book about the real Jane Austen Society. Neither is it a traditional Austenesque novel, spinning new stories from Austen's characters. It is an odd hybrid that tells an invented story with real elements, using a real place to imagine an alternate history. If the reader approaches this novel with any preconceptions, he or she will waste time and focus. And that would be a pity, because the story that is actually told is both charming and touching. It begins in the real village of Chawton, Hampshire, during World War II, and--inevitably, given that time and place--it is filled with mourning, loss, grim endurance, and loss of hope. The sadness combined with my own and made it a little hard to read at first. I was also slow to engage because we meet a lot of different characters in the early chapters, which tends to distance me from a narrative. Each character connected with Jane Austen in one way or another, mostly as readers, and some of the storylines showed signs of faintly echoing her novels. But soon enough the different characters started to interact and their narrative lines to weave into a single, coherent tale. Everyone is broken in one way or another by life, and an intimate relationship with Jane Austen's writings helps each to reconnect, develop a sense of purpose, and begin to heal. In the end, this is a satisfying tale of redemption. Occasionally the echoes of Austen novels made plot points feel a bit predictable, and bits of modern jargon jarred me out of the period here and there. But those are quibbles in a story I loved about characters I both loved and believed. For anyone inspired by this fictional story about the Jane Austen house museum, you should know that the real Chawton Cottage Museum is in financial trouble thanks to its forced closure in the pandemic. If you want to contribute to support it, you can do so here: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/j....

  26. 5 out of 5

    ♥Rachel♥

    The story takes place in Chawton, England, the final home of Jane Austen where several of the residents deal with grief and loss while taking some comfort in reading Jane Austen’s work. The characters come from very different backgrounds, social and economic: a farmer, widow, movie star, doctor, student, an antiquity agent, but they’re united by their affection of Austen’s work. When they find out the Jane Austen’s home and library are threatened, they band together to preserve her history. Whil The story takes place in Chawton, England, the final home of Jane Austen where several of the residents deal with grief and loss while taking some comfort in reading Jane Austen’s work. The characters come from very different backgrounds, social and economic: a farmer, widow, movie star, doctor, student, an antiquity agent, but they’re united by their affection of Austen’s work. When they find out the Jane Austen’s home and library are threatened, they band together to preserve her history. While this is taking place there are side stories: Adeline and Ben’s story was my favorite, but all were captivating. The young widow Adeline and Dr. Ben Gray, several years older, are friends, but you sense the longing they feel underneath. Ben and Adeline comfort each other through tragedy and I was on pins and needles waiting for them to admit how much they loved each other. There were some parallels to the romances in Ms. Austen’s stories and I enjoyed how the characters pointed out favorite passages and the deeper thoughts and motivations behind them. The Jane Austen Society was a heartwarming, lovely story that I’d recommend to any reader, Austen fan or not. I’m a huge fan of Richard Armitage as an actor so to have narrate this story was a treat! He did a fabulous job with both the male and female voices. A copy was kindly provided by Libro.fm in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wolf

    The Jane Austen Society is historical fiction set in post-war England, in the small town of Chawton. The main estate of the village has been in the Knight family for generations, and centuries earlier, became the home of Jane Austen’s brother and Jane herself. But after World War II, the last remaining members of the Knight family are Frances Knight, a woman in her 40s who never leaves her home, and her ailing, elderly, unpleasant father. With Mr. Knight’s demise looming, the future of the estate The Jane Austen Society is historical fiction set in post-war England, in the small town of Chawton. The main estate of the village has been in the Knight family for generations, and centuries earlier, became the home of Jane Austen’s brother and Jane herself. But after World War II, the last remaining members of the Knight family are Frances Knight, a woman in her 40s who never leaves her home, and her ailing, elderly, unpleasant father. With Mr. Knight’s demise looming, the future of the estate is at risk — and if the estate passes out of the family hands, so too will the priceless objects and books that once belonged to Jane Austen. The characters of the book all seem to have some sort of special connection to Jane Austen, her fiction, and her memory. Through their love of her fiction, the various characters find common ground, and ultimately band together to find a way to save the cottage that was once Jane’s home and to preserve the books that were an important part of her life. As these people form the Jane Austen Society, we get to know them as individuals as well. There’s the widowed doctor who may be ready for love again, the young war bride who suffers unimaginable loss, the local farmer who never got to pursue his dreams of higher learning, and the teen-aged girl whose passion for Austen leads to some truly amazing discoveries. And then there’s the outsider, a Hollywood star whose love for Jane Austen and her admiration of the author’s works and life inspire her to imagine a different sort of career and life for herself, other than being a property of the studios who want to make money off of her beauty — but only until she ages out of starlet status. I enjoyed The Jane Austen Society and its characters, but I can’t say that I felt particularly invested. The story develops slowly, and it was only at around the midpoint that I started to feel any sort of excitement building. This is a quiet sort of story, and it’s lovely to see how these very different group of people, all suffering and struggling to recover from loss after the war, find new purpose and connection through their love of literature. I really enjoyed all of their conversations about the meaning they find in Austen’s works, which characters they most relate to, and how the characters’ actions help them understand elements of their own life. I wished for something more, somehow. It’s a sweet book, but just lacked a real oomph as far as I was concerned. I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was a nice read, and I didn’t mind it a bit, but I also couldn’t quite care very strongly about the stakes or how the various personal entanglements would all work out. The Jane Austen Society is a good choice for fans of historical fiction, and of course, for fans of Jane Austen! And after reading this book, I’m feeling the need to go reread a little Austen myself… maybe Persuasion or Mansfield Park this time around?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I’ve been looking forward to the release of this book for months, unfortunately though it did not live up to my expectations. At the beginning I enjoyed the discussions on Austen’s various novels, but the longer I listened the less engaged I felt. The plot felt slow and lack luster, and the characters fell flat for me. For those who are curious about language or content, there are a few chapters with some strong language and profanity. It’s not in every chapter, but when it was used, it rubbed m I’ve been looking forward to the release of this book for months, unfortunately though it did not live up to my expectations. At the beginning I enjoyed the discussions on Austen’s various novels, but the longer I listened the less engaged I felt. The plot felt slow and lack luster, and the characters fell flat for me. For those who are curious about language or content, there are a few chapters with some strong language and profanity. It’s not in every chapter, but when it was used, it rubbed me the wrong way and it made me care for the characters less and less as the story went on. There was also an attempted rape scene and it was just not necessary. Meh. I wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. The audio was done really well though, so if you are interested in checking this book out, I would recommend listening to it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    My thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5+ stars This is an amazingly perfect story! The setting for most of the book is immediately following World War II in Chawton, England. As anyone familiar with Jane Austen's biographical information is aware, this is the sleepy rural village where the author resided during the last years of her life. There's no single protagonist; there are eight. Six are residents of Chawton. Most bear emotional wounds and find comfo My thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 5+ stars This is an amazingly perfect story! The setting for most of the book is immediately following World War II in Chawton, England. As anyone familiar with Jane Austen's biographical information is aware, this is the sleepy rural village where the author resided during the last years of her life. There's no single protagonist; there are eight. Six are residents of Chawton. Most bear emotional wounds and find comfort escaping into Jane Austen's stories. The reader gradually gets to know them all (albeit some more than others): Dr. Gray, a discreet country doctor, eases everyone else's pains but is helpless in the face of his own. Adelaide Lewis Grover, formerly the village schoolteacher, suffers a succession of devastating personal losses. Adam Berwick, a quiet farmer, lost two brothers in World War I, and the perennial bachelor is cursed with a termagant for a mother. Frances Knight is agoraphobic, and she's the last of the family line that traces back to Jane Austen's brother (Edward Austen Knight). Her father, James Knight, is openly dismissive of her. Andrew Forrester, Mr. Knight's solicitor, is torn between his professional responsibility to his client and his disgust for the old man's attitude toward Frances. Evie Stone, a young woman whose intellect is wasted in her menial job as a maid in the Knight estate, takes inspiration from Jane Austen's humble origin and yearns to make her own mark in the world. Mimi Harrison is a successful American actress lost in the shallow competitiveness of Hollywood. Her girlhood obsession with Jane Austen becomes the means by which a rich entrepreneur (Jack Leonard) wins her over. Yardley Sinclair, an estate sale expert of Sotheby's in London, is especially interested in items directly associated with Jane Austen. The gentle pacing of the novel matches the leisurely pace of life in this little village. As the story begins, it's hard to imagine how the lives of all these disparate characters will intersect. But things slowly progress, and three of them establish The Jane Austen Society, hoping to preserve artifacts related to the author's life when it appears that crochety Mr. Knight is on his deathbed. Over time, the others are invited to join. They encounter more obstacles than expected, and the storyline moves in some very surprising directions. The characters change as a result of, first, reading Jane Austen on their own; second, finding someone else who also loves her books; and third, working with other Austen-lovers on a project that has personal meaning to them. The storyline integrates several insightful discussions the characters have about Jane Austen's books. They're little nuggets of book club-ish reflections that make these characters feel more real, confirm how much they love her work, and provide the reader with some food for thought. Jane Austen storylines clearly influence some subplots. Persuasion seems the most apparent to me. Two characters are inspired by Sense and Sensibility and another by Pride and Prejudice's narrow-minded Mr. Collins. I can see elements of both Pride and Prejudice and Emma in another couple's relationship. These parallels and echoes suggest the universality of Austen's stories in ordinary lives. In keeping with the rest of the book's understated tone, none of the romance is presented in a dramatic or passionate fashion. In fact, the reader doesn't learn about many of the pairings until the Epilogue, which is set one year later. (There is one sexual attack, but the scene is delicately worded and the victim pushes off her attacker.) This is a moving, richly layered novel. The author does a wonderful job of starting with surface introductions to the characters that are misleadingly bland, and then returning to each character to dive just a little deeper, and then deeper, and deeper. It moves from character study into a surprisingly tense stuggle for the future of Jane Austen's legacy and the futures of the characters themselves. What a tour de force! Every Austen-lover should read this!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Set mainly in the years just after World War II in the quiet village of Chawton, where Jane Austen spent the last years of her life, The Jane Austen Society is poised to tickle the fancy of every Austen lover. It’s as you would expect, a fluffy affair bursting to the seams with references to the classic favorites—Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park in particular. Chawton is sleepy, where the biggest drama in town can be the list of books taught to school children or who too Set mainly in the years just after World War II in the quiet village of Chawton, where Jane Austen spent the last years of her life, The Jane Austen Society is poised to tickle the fancy of every Austen lover. It’s as you would expect, a fluffy affair bursting to the seams with references to the classic favorites—Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park in particular. Chawton is sleepy, where the biggest drama in town can be the list of books taught to school children or who took a walk with whom. But there’s something very charming as Jenner traces the quotidian hum-drum of village life. Though a real Jane Austen Society was founded in 1940, author Natalie Jenner conceives a fictional set of 8 founding members with varied histories, much like a merry band of misfits: a farmer, a famous Hollywood actress, a country doctor, a former schoolteacher, a scullery maid, a solicitor, an auctioneer, and the descendant of Jane Austen herself. Beneath the veneer of calm lives, they deal with great personal tragedies, family struggles, and losses from the war. What gradually unifies them is a common passion for reading and discussing Jane Austen’s works and history. Jumping between such a large cast of characters, I ultimately lost the ability to develop a deep connection with each one over the course of the novel. Despite the smattering of witty repartees and expressions of candor, I found that heavier moments could end up coming across as disingenuous or emotionally manipulative. Some chunk of humanity was missing that would let me feel these were fully fleshed out characters. This book focuses heavily on the healing power of Austen, drawing parallels between Austen’s deep understanding of the human condition—of love, of duty, of freedom—and the intertwined lives of Chawton’s inhabitants. If nothing else, this will inspire any reader, new or familiar, to crack open Austen’s books. Start with Pride and Prejudice, eh? *Many thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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