The small, charming village of Chawton in Hampshire is the setting for Natalie Jenner's "The Jane Austen Society." Jenner's debut historical novel is the story of eight people who unite after World War II to save the last home of literary great Jane Austen. While keeping Austen's Chawton House from the clutches of greedy developers, the unlikely group bond over their love and adoration of the works of Jane Austen and heal their own wounds along the way.
Devoted Janeites will especially appreciate the many references to Austen's beloved characters, novels and literary legacy. I think it's safe to say even if you have not read Austen (and you really should), this story has great appeal to those looking for an uplifting, old fashioned story reminiscent of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows or "Lilac Girls" by Martha Hall Kelly.
As you can imagine, a great deal of money is required to save the deteriorating home which makes for some interesting obstacles to overcome for this eclectic ensemble, consisting of some rather likeable village folks you might find in many a BBC series. Together, they form the Jane Austen Society. There is a farmer, a doctor, a young widow, a teenage Austen fan and even the last surviving Austen Knight relation for the reader to cheer on. At times, the story could teeter on edge of predictability, but Jenner keeps things interesting by moving back and forth in time and place as different story lines develop among the characters.
The Library's Fiction at Noon group will discuss this novel Tuesday at the Missouri River Regional Library. The library has print and digital copies available for checkout. The audiobook is available on the library's Hoopla app. Feel free to join our discussion by RSVP'ing to [email protected].
Claudia Cook is the director of Missouri River Regional Library.