Mini book review: THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY - by Natalie Jenner

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.

Published: September 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction | romance.
Pages: 306.
Format: Paperback.
Triggers: N/A.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

Jenner's writing is beautiful. It's an effortless complement to Austen's own writing style, without trying too hard, and it just suits the time period and the tone of the story.

The story is very slow, but sweet, as well. It’s a tribute to Austen’s characters and storylines from start to finish (with many parallels), and offers that comforting, relaxing feeling you often expect in historical fiction romances.

Personally, I thought it was too slow (and not much happened in the plot) but it ultimately it just felt too one-dimensional. If the story had included more subplots complications, and unpredictability, it would’ve been a stronger, more three-dimensional story.

I loved the cosy small town setting. Although I wish we’d seen more of it.

"...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."

The characters' personalities complement each other nicely. I didn't find anyone very three-dimensional or compelling, but they're all likeable (except the ones who aren't supposed to be) and their relationships are slow-burning and lovely. I especially loved Dr. Gray and Adeline's romance - it's so moving, and I like how they helped and supported each other through the grief in their individual lives. Although, I think their relationship was rushed towards the end of the book.

The Jane Austen Society is a thoughtful, heartfelt tribute to Austen - her stories, her characters, her writing style, and the magic of her themes that have, deservedly, captivated generation after generation.   

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