Join the virtual online book tour of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, Natalie Jenner’s highly acclaimed debut novel May 25 through June 30, 2020. Seventy-five popular blogs and websites specializing in historical fiction, historical romance, women’s fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature interviews and reviews of this post-WWII novel set in Chawton, England.
Today I’m featuring my review and thoughts on the story AND the lovely audiobook narrated by none other than Richard Armitage (you North & South fans will be swooning now, I know).
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.
AUDIOBOOK NARRATED BY ACTOR RICHARD ARMITAGE:
The full unabridged text of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY was read by the distinguished English film, television, theatre and voice actor Richard Armitage for the audiobook recording. Best known by many period drama fans for his outstanding performance as John Thornton in the BBC television adaptation of North and South (2004), Armitage also portrayed Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit (2012 – 2014).
Thought-provoking in its analysis of Austen, The Jane Austen Society at once pays homage and has an endearing, colorful cast of its own. The trials of war, survival, and carrying the burdens of others are themes that contrast with the tiny little moments that make up the joy of life all prevalent in this story of hope.
Natalie Jenner has an authorly voice that captures an era and a bright group of people with a beautiful cadence and concept. From details like the subtle and leading POV shifts to the timeline of the novel, all of the characters are introduced and set up extremely well before the deeper everydayness of their lives is explored. Their relationships intertwine and wind through the story, exploring the heart of friendship, companionship, sacrifice, and even romance.
I particularly appreciate how the pleasure of reading is portrayed in this story. The joy found in rereading favorite authors, the keen humanity found in Austen’s stories, the comfort of books, and literature as a uniting force are all concepts woven through polite conversations, characters’ thoughts, and ultimately a commonality bringing together an unlikely community. The analysis, in particular, of Austen’s depth and the slight parallels to her familiar tropes Natalie engages with her own characters are simply delightful.
I must mention there is more than one romantic thread in this story and ALL of them are a delight! The couple that parallels Emma and Knightley, though, are my absolute favorites! Their conversations are just so smart, meaningful, and full of wit. They forge their own identities, not merely regurgitations of Austen’s famous duo, as an intellectual and emotional match.
The audiobook version of this novel is a pleasure to listen to, as well. Narrator Richard Armitage delivers a memorable and impactful performance with various accents (English variations, American, and even Scottish!) and a heavy dose of emotion. His embodiment of the character Dr. Benjamin Gray, in particular, is my favorite.
I highly recommend this novel for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, author Katherine Reay, or fans of post-WWII stories of triumph.
**content note: to my readers who know I typically review inspirational fiction, I want to fill you in on some content expectations. This is a “secular” novel, and has some mild and brief strong language, and an implied homosexual relationship. **
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.
Natalie Jenner is the debut author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen wrote or revised her major works. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie graduated from the University of Toronto with degrees in English Literature and Law and has worked for decades in the legal industry. She recently founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs.
Blog Tour Stops
May 25 Jane Austen’s World
May 26 Frolic Media
May 26 A Bookish Affair
May 26 Courtney Reads Romance
May 26 Margie’s Must Reads
May 26 The Reading Frenzy
May 27 Gwendalyn’s Books
May 28 Getting Your Read On
May 28 Living Read Girl
May 28 The Lit Bitch
May 29 History Lizzie
May 29 Silver Petticoat Reviews
May 30 Historical Fiction Reader
May 31 Jane Austen in Vermont
June 01 From Pemberley to Milton
June 01 My Jane Austen Book Club
June 01 AustenBlog
June 02 Lu’s Reviews
June 02 The Green Mockingbird
June 03 Relz Reviews
June 03 Impressions in Ink
June 04 The Caffeinated Bibliophile
June 04 Life of Literature
June 04 Laura’s Reviews
June 05 Reading Ladies Book Club
June 05 Bookish Rantings
June 06 From the TBR Pile
June 07 Rachel Dodge
June 07 An Historian About Town
June 08 Bringing up Books
June 08 Austenesque Reviews
June 09 Captivated Reading
June 09 Savvy Verse and Witt
June 10 Lady with a Quill
June 10 Drunk Austen
June 11 Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
June 11 Inkwell Inspirations
June 12 Nurse Bookie
June 12 A Bookish Way of Life
June 13 Calico Critic
June 14 Jane Austen’s World
June 15 Stuck in a Book
June 15 Storybook Reviews
June 15 Confessions of a Book Addict
June 16 Literary Quicksand
June 16 Becky on Books
June 17 The Reading Frenzy
June 17 Anita Loves Books
June 18 Chicks, Rogues, & Scandals
June 18 The Write Review
June 19 Diary of Eccentric
June 20 Cracking the Cover
June 21 Short Books & Scribes
June 22 Reading the Past
June 22 Babblings of a Bookworm
June 23 My Vices and Weaknesses
June 23 The Book Diva Reads
June 24 Books, Teacups & Reviews
June 24 Wishful Endings
June 25 Robin Loves Reading
June 25 Bookfoolery
June 26 Lit and Life
June 26 Vesper’s Place
June 27 Foxes and Fairy Tales
June 28 Probably at the Library
June 28 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books
June 29 The Anglophile Channel
June 29 So Little Time…
June 30 BookNAround