The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
It should be obvious by the title, but if you are a Jane Austen fan, this book is definitely for you. There are so many references to all of the books that Austen wrote, plus the characters in this novel also have a very Austenian feel to them. And the story is set in a real town that is known as one of the places Jane Austen wrote her final books.
Set mostly in the years after WWII, the residents of Chauton, England are familiar with the notoriety of the local estate, inherited by Jane Austen’s brother. But the estate has dwindled over the years, unable to keep up with estate taxes, and the final heir has no heirs of her own. Within this small village, there is a group of people who love Austen’s books and come together in an attempt to save artifacts from the estate connected to this beloved author. They become the Jane Austen Society.
The writing is immersive without being too descriptive. Every time I picked up this book, I was transported to this town, though the main plot of this book didn’t feel dated within the period. The problems each of the characters were facing are still relatable. I even was surprised at the decisions some characters made, almost to a point of frustration. I wouldn’t have made the same choices, so it was fascinating to see the outcomes. True to a Jane Austen novel, things do work out in the end even if you don’t see it completely until the last page of the book.
Two trigger warnings, however, and I have to slightly spoil the beginning plot to reveal them. First the spoilery one, there is a detailed pregnancy loss early in the book and the aftermath grief described. I practically threw my book across the couch when it happened, as I wasn’t prepared for it (and I read this close to the anniversary of one of my own losses), hence the warning. Second, there is a sexual assault (both of these happen to different characters) that happens in the first half of the book as well. It is a little detailed, enough that made me feel a little uncomfortable, so warning there, too.
Towards the end of the book, there is a good bit of legal jargon in regards to the estate. I had to reread it a few times to follow what the issues were and how they were being resolved, but it was quite fascinating. Overall, the book is wonderful and I would reread it again, most definitely. Also, all of the conversations the characters have over their favorite Austen books have me wanting to pick up that author and reread some of her work again.
There is profanity in the book. Sexual content includes the above mentioned assault, as well as some light kissing, and a sex scene which is not detailed or steamy. No graphic violent content (other than the pregnancy loss), but there is some death mentioned from the war. There is also LGBTQIA representation in the main characters.
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