Welcome to All, new and old readers.
First, let me introduce myself, I am the owner of this fine blog, and my name is Sophia and I am so proud to be part of this blog tour, thanks to Laurel Nattress, who contacted me and thank you for writing this amazing story, Natalie Jenner.
Well, to business. I am proud and pleased to announce my review of “The Jane Austen Society” by Natalie Jenner, – the new and upcoming Austen related book, which has the whole Austen community in a flurry of upheaval.
There have been quite a few rumours of this book, in the last few months, – but I was one of the lucky few who got an ARC copy to enjoy, and wow did I enjoy it!? The answer; YES!
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.
The Jane Austen Society takes it beginning in charming if rural Chawton Village in Hampshire, just as WWII is drawing to its conclusion. Here we are met with a band of different characters, seemingly with nothing in common except 1 thing; Jane Austen and her works.
The focus of the book was the pain of WWII and how Jane Austen helped to heal and guide people after and during their pain and loss of the great war of 1940-1945. And each character in the book had experienced losses in one form or another. We are introduced to Dr Gray, who has lost his wife, Mimi Harrison (American movie actor) who has lost her father, Evie who is a housemaid who has lost her chance of schooling, Andrew Forrester who has lost the love of his life, Adam Berwick who has lost his father, Frances Knight who loses her father and her home, Adeline Lewis who loses both her husband and baby – this band of characters who Natalie managed to bring to life and make this reader feel their pain, confusion, and hope during the plot.
Secondly, the fictional part of the plot follows how these seven characters help to form the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, and how they struggle to acquire the library from the Knight Estate and the small if well-loved cottage, many fans of Miss Austen’s both know and love to visit to feel close to the lady and her genius – where she wrote 3 out of 5 much read, many times translated, discussed, performed, filmed and enjoyed books.
Natalie especially caught me with this following quote, “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.”
In my opinion, Natalie nailed it with this quote, because she’s so right with this statement, Austen lasts and has lasted for more than 200 years so far, and is as well-loved as she ever has been. Her books I find is truly like a tonic, when you need an escape from your own messed up world because no matter how messed up the plot gets, you know it all makes sense in the end.
The story had its ups and downs, but every page was a revelation with many references to the works of Miss Austen, including a heartwarming proposal, very much like a well-known character, who is older than the heroine and is too proud to admit to his faults, and in this scene, Miss Austen’s “Emma” reference was used perfectly.
“She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and smiled at him lovingly for the first time in as long as that. “Are you sure?” “Frances, I just watched you have your whole world ripped out from under you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have. It would be my honour, truly, to be your husband.”
Wow, did I sigh and have to remove a tear at that scene! It was simply wonderful, and the reference was just perfect! Emma might not be my favourite, but gosh did I suddenly have to rush out to find my copy and locate the matching scene to read it again, after finishing this lovely book.
Another thing I noted was Adam Berwick and the way Natalie wrote him, and how much I could identify with his search for meaning and why some things matter a lot and some not at all, – and how that resonated with my personality and my way of seeing the world around me. Though I could identify with more or less all of the characters in one way or another, – but mostly with Adam and his escape into the worlds of others’ making.
“He had gone to work every day merely to survive, saving for himself a few hours every night to disappear into fictional world of others’ making. He was hoping to find some answers for why he didn’t care about some things and cared too much about others.”
Another way Austen is being used to heal and guide people, in Adam’s way of searching for answers, – I think we can all identify with the escape from our world. Though likely the character who understood Miss Austen best in this book, and her search for ‘greatness’ was Evie, the youngest member of The Jane Austen Society. Especially when she locates a certain letter from a Miss J. Austen, and I am guessing it would have been to Miss C. Austen. I think my adrenaline spiked when that letter was found, just reading it, I could feel it, nearly see the yellowed paper between ones hands and feel how fragile it would feel and recognise the handwriting!
As Evie turned the pages of the large dense volume still in her hands – pages so thick that it took actual effort sometimes to pry their edges open – she could feel a slight bulging in the section coming up. She skipped eagerly ahead to it, and as she flipped over the final page, a letter fell out. The handwriting was familiar to her from some of the earlier annotations, inscriptions, and margin markings she had found. No postmark was on the outside folded cover, the letter apparently having never been mailed. She could not believe her eyes as she read it, at first too quickly, as if convinced the paper might disappear as mysteriously as it had been found – and then three more times, each time more slowly than before. It was the very thing she would have been looking for, if only she could have guessed what that could possibly be.
She had had moments before in the library, late at night, that had approached a small degree of the euphoria she now felt as she scribbled away, but nothing else had ever come close to this. She finally understood why she had spent so many futile nights sitting here, on her little stool, alone. This was why she had never given up. And this was why Miss Adeline had been right all along. She had, with this discovery, brought the world closer than it had ever been before to the greatness. She had, as Miss Woolf herself once described it, caught Jane Austen in the act.
And yes indeed she had caught Jane Austen in the “Act” so to speak! And lastly, the ending perfectly rounded off, and all the characters got their own form of Happily Ever After. So I can completely content with this book, it was such a pleasure and privilege to read it. I can only congratulate Natalie on a wonderful book, with all the deserved praise and accolades it has already received.
*Psst!* Did you hear that it’s actor Richard Armitage who is narrating the book as audio??
AUDIOBOOK NARRATED BY ACTOR RICHARD ARMITAGE:
The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).
Link to YouTube audiobook excerpt: https://youtu.be/OJ1ACJluRi8
“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.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“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.” ―Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal.” —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
Natalie Jenner is the debut 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.
- An Amazon Best Book of May 2020
- One of Goodreads Big Books of Spring & Hot Books of Summer
- One of Audible’s Top 50 Most Anticipated Spring Audiobooks
- June 2020 Indie Next Pick
- May 2020 Library Reads Pick
- Starred Review – Library Journal
- Starred Review – Booklist
That was it for this time around, all, I hope you enjoy the book tour, and thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. I hope you will return in future for more reviews of Austen related books, adventures and much much more.