The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Once upon a time, I was a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Austen’s books, though they are few in number, are some of the most splendid social commentary of their time. Her works give us an intimate view of life in Regency England.
This novel takes place during and shortly after World War II, in the town of Chawton (Austen lived there toward the end of her life). Frances Knight, a descendant of Austen’s brother, is living a reclusive life in the ancestral home while village life goes on around her. We get to meet Adeline Grover, the school teacher, Dr. Benjamin Gray, attorney/solicitor Andrew Forrester, and many other denizens of the city. We also meet American film star Mimi Harrison. What eventually brings all of these characters, and a couple of others, together is their love for Austen’s novels.
Ultimately, the book is a highly fictionalized telling of how the original Jane Austen Society was founded. While none of the characters are real people, they *feel* real all the same. Their foibles and desires are revealed throughout the book; no one is flawless, but all of them are believable.
I finished this book in just three sittings because I didn’t want to stop reading. Janeites (as fans call themselves) are sure to love it, but those who enjoy good historical fiction will be just as delighted.
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