Just after the end of WWII in the small village of Chawton, England, a small group of villagers decide to honor one of their past residents by creating the Jane Austen Society. Their dream is to restore the small cottage that resides on the Knight estate where Jane Austen once lived and possibly wrote her final novel. Through their love for Jane Austen this disparate group finds solace, love, and hope.
The publisher has compared this novel to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and I definitely see the similarities, although this book stays locked in the post war era. The other similarity is the encapsulated feel of living in a small village, knowing the same people through your entire lives, and having those same people know (or think they know) everything about you. The characters in the Jane Austen Society had quite a few surprises in store not just for the reader, but for each other as well!
There were quite a few stories that ran parallel to the main plot as each character is introduced. Frances Knight, the direct descendant of Jane Austen, who’s home was once Jane’s, is one of the most important. As Frances’ story progresses we see her unmasked. What we and the other villagers see as frailty becomes a quiet strength. On the flip side we see a strong opinionated Adeline reveal a quiet uncertainty in the face of re-starting her life after the death of her unborn child. The contrasts between the characters gave the conflict within their own storylines more impact. This tool was actually used more than once, and quite effectively!
As I read their love for Jane Austen’s novels, and those plots, I realized again how books make such a difference in people’s lives. We each see something of ourselves in the characters we’re reading and these characters saw themselves in Darcy, Elizabeth Bennett, and Emma, just as much as I saw pieces of myself in the characters in The Jane Austen Society. Not only does it bring comfort during difficult times but we see our own past errors in some fictional characters which makes us root for them even more.
The Jane Austen Society quietly snuck up on me. I immediately loved the post WWII era, but it took a little more time for me to find my way with one or two of the characters in this novel. Once I was mid-way through the novel I settled into the plot and enjoyed each moment as it was revealed. If you have the patience to invest yourself in this quietly moving novel, I think you’ll reap the rewards of feeling satisfied at the end of this well written book, and who knows, you may see yourself in one or two of these characters as well! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
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