The Jane Austen Society (Hardcover)
St. Martin's Press, 9781250248732, 320pp.
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
June 2020 Indie Next List
— Sandi Madore, Magnolia's Bookstore, Seattle, WA
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"This novel delivers sweet, smart escapism." —People
"Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society… A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal." —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
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.
A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.
About the Author
Praise For The Jane Austen Society: A Novel…
"Just like a story written by Austen herself, Jenner's first novel is brimming with charming moments, endearing characters, and nuanced relationships...Readers won't need previous knowledge of Austen and her novels to enjoy this tale's slow revealing of secrets that build to a satisfying and dramatic ending." —Booklist (starred review)
"Readers who enjoy character-driven novels will want to read this book. Like Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, it’s a must-purchase for libraries of all sizes." —Library Journal (starred review)
"Delightful... Jenner’s immersive character development is juxtaposed against her study of Austen’s characters, providing clever insight into how the trials of Austen’s life were revealed through her books." —Publishers Weekly
"Few things draw disparate people together so quickly as discovering they love the same writers. Few writers cement such friendships as deeply as Austen does. I believe that the readers of Jenner's book will fall in love with the readers inside Jenner's book, all of us thinking and dreaming of Austen the whole while. What could be better? Nothing, that's what! A wonderful book, a wonderful read." —Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
"I can’t remember the last time I was so utterly charmed by a novel as I am with The Jane Austen Society. Natalie Jenner creates a world populated with characters who come together to preserve Jane Austen’s home in the village of Chawton after WW II. And in so doing she explores love and grief and hope, all while plunging us headfirst into Austen’s words. A celebration of the human spirit and the power of stories, I just love this book!" —Ann Hood, New York Times bestselling author of Comfort and The Obituary Writer
"Natalie Jenner's lovely debut novel, The Jane Austen Society, is a charming, yet bittersweet tale about the power of literature — the beloved Jane Austen in particular — to heal and elevate the human spirit in the aftermath of World War II.” —Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room
"Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society is an extremely impressive debut novel populated with fully-developed, nuanced characters that resonate with the kind of humanity that made Ms. Austen's stories so universal and timeless." —Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky
"Fans of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will adore The Jane Austen Society, which tells the story of an eclectic group of people in a post-World War II English village who come together to save the beloved author's home and legacy. Author Natalie Jenner has penned a charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the universal language of literature and the power of books to unite and heal." —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris
"The Jane Austen Society is a joyous novel. Written beautifully from the first sentence to the last, Natalie Jenner casts a spell that will have you falling in love with each of her lovingly-drawn characters, with the charming English village in which the story is set, and with Jane Austen herself. I read it straight through, relishing every word and regretting only that it eventually had to end. With tears still in my eyes from the perfect closing scene, I ran to pull a Jane Austen novel from my bookshelf, eager to remain in the magical world Natalie Jenner conjured. In a time where it is so easy to feel we are all at odds with one another, The Jane Austen Society is a beautiful reminder that connection and care are at the heart of the human experience." —Kim van Alkemade, NYTimes bestselling author of Orphan #8 and Bachelor Girl
"Prepare to meet 'three or four families in a country village' who embrace their passion and form a literary society in honor of an author whose enduring appeal, after 200 years, reminds us of what should be paramount in our lives: compassion, love, and reading!! The Jane Austen Society is an uplifting tribute to its inspiration and the nobility of the human spirit. Natalie Jenner could be the next Helen Simonson.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It and Austenprose.com
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. There is a wide range of major characters in The Jane Austen Society. Which of the eight main characters was your favorite? Which of their personal stories did you find the most satisfying? Which one do you most identify with and why?
2. Jane Austen’s writing – and the characters’ love of her writing – is what brings them together. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, what is your favorite book and why? If not, then which of her books are you now most interested in reading?
3. Several of the characters are living with – and, to differing extents, dealing with – the grief of losing a close loved one. Did you find yourself sympathizing with one of them more than the others? What about their story touched you the most?
4. Most of The Jane Austen Society takes place in the 1940s, right after World War II. Given that it was a very different time, with very different attitudes, what aspect revealed in the novel seemed the most familiar to your experience? What seemed the most changed since that time?
5. Mimi Harrison is in sharp contrast to the rest of the characters – she’s from the U.S., she’s a movie star, she has wealth far beyond the rest of the characters. Beyond their shared love of Jane Austen’s work, what traits do you think she has most in common with the rest of the characters? Which other character does she best complement?
6. Adam Berwick has to make an important decision – one that will not only affect the Society but his family as well. Do you think he made the right decision? Why?
7. What surprised you the most about the book? Were there any plot developments you did not expect?
8. There are many obvious and more subtle allusions to Austen’s own plots and characters throughout the book. If you’re familiar with Austen, which parallels did you particularly notice? Which ones most delighted you?
9. What expectations did you have of this book entitled The Jane Austen Society? What plotlines surprised you? Which ones developed in the way you expected?
10. What do you imagine happened to the Society and to the members after the end of the book?