The Jane Austen Society

I read the ARC of The Jane Austen Society, the debut novel by Natalie Jenner, courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. This book is funny and sad, touching and triumphant; and is subtly powerful in the way it explores human foibles and frailties.

Chawton, England, the final home of Jane Austen, is often besieged with tourists wanting to see her home and other artifacts. Some of the residents welcome them, and some do not. Ms. Jenner has created very Austen-like characters who make some of the same mistakes made by Austen’s characters.

It is shortly after World War II, and a few of Austen’s more distant relatives still live in Chawton. A handful of them want to form a charity and foundation to preserve her home and as many remaining books and artifacts as they can. The problem? A cantankerous old man has left his daughter nothing, and willed the property to the closest living male relative who plans to sell everything to a developer. Another problem? The Jane Austen Society needs money to buy the cottage and what other items they can locate.

The small group forming the society are about as unlikely a group as can be found, yet they share a love of Austen’s work and legacy. Each has had his or her own share of tragedy and disappointment, and continues to struggle with loss. Perhaps that is why they relate so well, not only to Austen’s characters, but to each other.

I was amazed at the way Ms. Jenner used the personalities of Austen’s characters to for her characters. This book reveals how Ms. Austen used her books to deal with her own travails, and in doing so, pays homage to a beloved author. I thoroughly enjoyed this charming book. It makes me want to pull out Jane’s books. You won’t be sorry you took the time to read it.

What made The Grumpy Book Reviewer grumpy

•   Incorrect verb tense: was vs. were; went vs. came;
•   A lot of split infinitives;
•   A lot of missing commas;
•   Excessive and unnecessary use of the word “that”.

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