When I first heard about The Jane Austen Society, I knew it sounded like exactly what I was looking for right now – a story about village life, community and the love of reading. It is set in the 1940s in the village of Chawton in Hampshire, where Jane Austen lived for several years. I grew up in Hampshire and I have such fond memories of a special trip to Chawton planned by my mum, who knew how much I loved reading Jane Austen when I was growing up.
The story paints a picture of a quintessentially British village rebuilding itself after the devastation of WW2. There are some memorable characters, who all play different functions within the community – the village doctor, a local solicitor, a broody farmer, an inspirational teacher, the heiress and a servant of the Great House in the village. Along with a Hollywood access and prestigious London auctioneer, they are gradually all brought together through their love of Jane Austen.
It is a historical novel which includes some poignant reflections on the lingering effects of the war on village life – many of the characters have lost loved ones, and you can feel the fighting Blitz spirit that has fostered among the village community.
What I loved about the novel is that even though it is firmly set in this time period, you can nonetheless also feel Austen’s era seeping through the pages – through the passionate discussions that the characters have about Austen’s characters and stories, the artifacts they fight to protect, and the landscape – the very fields and countryside that Austen walked through. There is even an Austen-esque vibe to the plots: contention over the rightful inheritor of the great estate, romance thwarted by the characters’ own stubbornness or obstinate parents, gossiping busybodies – all bring the essence of Austen’s novels to this story.
The audiobook is very well produced and Richard Armitage’s reading is excellent – his quintessentially British accent really fits with the village life depicted in the novel, and moments of typical British wry humour!
It has most definitely ignited in me the need to read Austen’s novels again! I was shocked to realise that, unlike the characters in The Jane Austen Society, I couldn’t even pick out my favourite of her novels. Now I’ve finished this great audiobook, I’m very tempted to get stuck into my collection again!
About the Author
Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie Jenner graduated from the University of Toronto with consecutive degrees in English Literature and Law, and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She also founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen, The Jane Austen Society is her first published novel.
About the Narrator
Richard Armitage is a British actor, who has appeared in a number of films and television shows but is most recognisable for his role in The Hobbit. Richard has appeared in numerous BBC dramas; his first major television role was as John Standring in BBC drama Sparkhouse (2002), his first leading role as John Thornton in the British television programme North & South (2004) and he went on to play Guy of Gisborne in the 2006 BBC adaptation of Robin Hood.
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner publishes today (28th May 2020) with Orion Fiction. Many thanks to Kate Morton at Orion for inviting me to participate in this tour and to the publisher for sending me an audio version to review.
Look out for further reviews by other the bloggers on this tour!!
Sophie @Sophie_Jo_Books 📚 🐾