Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Romance
Published: 26 May 2020 by St. Martin’s Press
Page count: 320
My Format: eBook via NetGalley
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy The Jane Austen Society
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.
I love Jane Austen so this book title definitely caught my eye. Here are my pros and cons for The Jane Austen Society:
- I loved that all the characters in the book (save one cranky old man) had a deep love for Jane Austen.
- Throughout the story various characters had discussions about Jane Austen and her books. The discussions were quite detailed at times, to the point it almost felt like taking a master class in literature. I enjoyed these dialogues very much and even learned a thing or two.
- Even considering Pro #2, you don’t have to be a Jane Austen scholar to understand the book.
- I like reading historical novels that are about historical periods themselves. This book takes place in the 1940s and discussion Jane Austen history, which are both historical periods I love.
- I liked the juxtaposition of historical novels with 1940s filmmaking. One character in the book is a “movie star” in the 1940s and it was interesting to compare and contrast her fame to Jane Austen’s fame when she was publishing her novels.
- The story is easy to read and generally enjoyable.
- I don’t know if there were simply too many characters in the story and my interest was spread too thin, or if I just wasn’t invested personally, but I never really connected to any of the characters.
- I felt like the story was a little unfocused. It was almost as if the history and study of Jane Austen part of the story was fighting for attention with the story about the people living in Chawton in the 1940s, and neither part had enough substance by itself. I wanted more of both, and what we did get didn’t knit together well. Ultimately the story felt a bit thin to me.
- The book ends with a “happily ever after”, but the path it took to get there was convenient and a little unbelievable.
Although I have some criticisms in my review, I liked this book. To me, a 3-star book is a quick, enjoyable read at the moment, but it didn’t have enough of an impact to be memorable long-term. I do recognize that I appear to be in the minority regarding my thoughts on this book (many people loved it) and I am very glad others enjoyed it even more than I did.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves Jane Austen, the 1940s (and particularly 1940s Hollywood), and those who love happy endings.
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ebook copy, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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