Back in April, I posted about my great love of Jane Austen and her works. In that particular post, I focused on the novel, Persuasion, which happens to be my favorite among the Austen catalogue. But all of her books hold a special place in my heart. Austen observed, with a keen eye, her confined environment. She honed in on a specific type of English country living and designed amazing stories with that as the backdrop. Country life-a character in its own right. She was also masterful in her creation of interesting, and complex female characters. Yes, marriage to a rich yet caring man was always the endgame. But Jane was able to infuse her female characters with such depth and richness, that their popularity has endured some 200 years since their creator’s passing. It’s hard not to love Jane Austen. She was an unassuming woman. A literary genius hidden away in the small villages of Brittania.
The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner, is a delightful tribute to the eponymous author. But this novel involves more than just simple Janeite fandom. It follows the lives of a group of residents in a quiet British village at the end of the Second World War. They each have been dealt a heavy hand. Their lives are marked by disappointments and tragedies. But their painful experiences aren’t what brings this eclectic group together. It’s their shared love of Jane Austen that proves to be a binding force. It leads them to form an educational society with a mission to acquire and preserve all obtainable property once belonging to Austen and her family. It’s advantageous that their village, Chawton, was once the residence of Ms. Austen. And it helps that one of the society’s members is a distant relative of the famous authoress. But with limited financial means, the odds are stacked against them. Enter, stage right, a beautiful (and rich) Hollywood actress vacationing in England, who just so happens to have an Austen obsession of her own. Things may be looking up for this fledgling society.
The Jane Austen Society is as charming as they come. You don’t need to be a fan of Austen’s to enjoy this book. Nor do you need to have read her novels. That being said, if you have read her works, and you’re a super-fan (as I am) it really adds so much joy and excitement to the overall reading experience. In addition to honoring one of the greatest writers history has ever known, The Jane Austen Society also addresses issues such as grief, depression, and addiction in a way that is honest and meaningful. In response to those issues, Natalie Jenner gently illustrates how even the most resigned personality, the most tragic of figures, can rebound and find purpose and meaning in their life. I think that’s the biggest take-away from this novel. Jane Austen had disappointments in her own life, and she died entirely too young. But writing gave her a sense of purpose. We’re the lucky beneficiaries.