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Reviews of The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society

A Novel

by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner X
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2020, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2021, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kelly Hydrick
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter One

Chawton, Hampshire

June 1932

He lay back on the low stone wall, knees pulled up, and stretched out his spine against the rock. The birdsong pierced the early-morning air in little shrieks that hammered at his very skull. Lying there, still, face turned flat upwards to the sky, he could feel death all around him in the small church graveyard. He must have looked like an effigy himself, resting on top of the wall, as if carved into permanent silence, abreast a silent tomb. He had never left his small village to see the great cathedrals of his country, but he knew from books how the sculpted ancient rulers lay just like this, atop their elevated shrines, for lower men like himself to gaze at centuries later in awe.

It was haying season, and he had left his wagon in the lane, right where it met the kissing gate and the farm fields at the end of old Gosport Road. Huge bundles of hay had already been piled up high on the back of the wagon, waiting for transport to the horse and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. There is a wide range of major characters in The Jane Austen Society. Which of the eight main characters was your favorite? Which of their personal stories did you find the most satisfying? Which one do you most identify with and why?
  2. Jane Austen's writing – and the characters' love of her writing – is what brings them together. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, what is your favorite book and why? If not, then which of her books are you now most interested in reading?
  3. Several of the characters are living with – and, to differing extents, dealing with – the grief of losing a close loved one. Did you find yourself sympathizing with one of them more than the others? What about their story touched you the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Jane Austen Society is a paean to the power of literature and the positive impact reading can have on us in uncertain times. In telling this fictionalized account of the founding of the real Jane Austen Society, Jenner turns a keen, almost Austenesque eye on her characters, their interpersonal relationships and English village life in the early 1940s. This is a fun, satisfying novel, full of heart and brimming with a love for all things Austen...continued

Full Review (660 words).

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(Reviewed by Kelly Hydrick).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
The Jane Austen Society is no Jane Austen novel; its dialogue is not as crisp, its pace a bit flabby. But Jenner keeps things interesting by moving back and forth in time and place as different story lines progress, and by including a few characters Austen could never have anticipated, such as a Hollywood film star and a local teenager mad for Jane's archives...If you've never cracked the spine of Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion, you may still adore this sweet, old-fashioned story — but if you do know Austen's work, you'll appreciate it all the more

Booklist (starred review)
Just like a story written by Austen herself, Jenner's first novel is brimming with charming moments, endearing characters, and nuanced relationships...Readers won't need previous knowledge of Austen and her novels to enjoy this tale's slow revealing of secrets that build to a satisfying and dramatic ending.

Library Journal (starred review)
Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will want to read this book. Like Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it's a must-purchase for libraries of all sizes.

Kirkus Reviews
More than a passing familiarity with Austen's work may be a prerequisite to fully appreciating this book...But, thanks to Jenner's psychologically astute portrayals, the society founders themselves are very real and thoroughly sympathetic. Readers will root for these characters, wishing them Austen-worthy happy endings.

Publishers Weekly
[D]elightful...The narrative...is rich with references to Austen's literature and carried along by the strong bonds formed by the characters based on their shared appreciation for her work. Austen-ites are in for a treat.

Author Blurb Ann Hood, New York Times bestselling author of Comfort and The Obituary Writer
I can't remember the last time I was so utterly charmed by a novel as I am with The Jane Austen Society. Natalie Jenner creates a world populated with characters who come together to preserve Jane Austen's home in the village of Chawton after WW II. And in so doing she explores love and grief and hope, all while plunging us headfirst into Austen's words. A celebration of the human spirit and the power of stories, I just love this book!

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
Few things draw disparate people together so quickly as discovering they love the same writers. Few writers cement such friendships as deeply as Austen does. I believe that the readers of Jenner's book will fall in love with the readers inside Jenner's book, all of us thinking and dreaming of Austen the whole while. What could be better? Nothing, that's what! A wonderful book, a wonderful read.

Author Blurb Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room
Natalie Jenner's lovely debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, is a charming, yet bittersweet tale about the power of literature — the beloved Jane Austen in particular — to heal and elevate the human spirit in the aftermath of World War II.

Author Blurb Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society is an extremely impressive debut novel populated with fully-developed, nuanced characters that resonate with the kind of humanity that made Ms. Austen's stories so universal and timeless.

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Beyond the Book

Janeites: Austen Fans Past and Present

Portrait of Jane Austen from her nephew's memoir According to literary scholar Claudia L. Johnson, "Janeism" is a "self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for 'Jane' Austen and every primary, secondary, tertiary (and so forth) detail relative to her." The devotees who share this enthusiasm, also known as "Janeites," are in the simplest sense fans of Jane Austen and her writings. Today, however, there is an underlying negative connotation to the term "Janeite" with roots in gender issues and the ways in which Austen's work has been conceptualized over the past 200 years.

Although Austen did not enjoy fame during her lifetime, it wasn't long after her death in 1817 that her popularity began to grow. As early as the 1850s, but especially after her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen was ...

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