The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. New York: St. Martins, 2020, 320 pages.
In the 150 years since Jane Austen published her first novel, there have been numerous adaptions of her work in various mediums. Her large and enthusiastic fan base soaks up all of these with delight. The recently published The Jane Austen Society is another work that promises to charm readers.
Jane Austen lived the final years of her life in a small English village known as Chawton. Fast forward about a hundred years to post World War II, and most of the villagers are ambivalent about this claim to fame. However, there are a handful of resident Jane Austen lovers who seek each other out to discuss and debate her novels. Out of these discussions, an idea is sparked to create a society to preserve and promote Jane Austen’s remarkable legacy, including the purchase of the house where she resided.
The Jane Austen Society (not to be confused with the real-life Jane Austen Society that was formed around this same time with a similar mission) is officially formed by a diverse set of characters that includes a bachelor farmer, maid, doctor, lawyer, spinster, war widow, and a Hollywood actress. Each of these people are also confronting personal traumas. What they all have in common is how they have all turned to the works of Austen for healing and eventually to each other.
It is impossible not to be lured in by this small village life, interpersonal dramas, and the compelling storyline. These characters become as recognizable as your own neighbors and you will be hoping that each of them finds their Austen worthy happy ending. A note of warning, it is a prerequisite to have more than a passing familiarity with the characters and plots of Austen’s novels to appreciate this work.
For those looking for additional charming reads full of eccentric characters, check out from your local library The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and The Little Paris Bookshop.
Amanda Gramley is the Adult Programming Coordinator with the Alamance County Public Libraries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.