Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Natalie Jenner - The Jane Austen Society

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.

Comment: I saw this book at the library too. I like to attend the library because it isn't just a place to get books one might not want to buy, it'a a great way to try things we wouldn't otherwise. I had seen references to this book, I do like Jane Austen's books, so it didn't escape my notice some readers were enjoying this but I wasn't too focused on trying it. Then, there it was, available at the library...

In this book we meet a small cast of characters, who live in Chawton in the 1940s, where Jane Austen lived too, and how they decide to create a group to defend and promote the place where such a famous English writer has lived. All are different but all also share the traditions of their hometown and the love for the work of Jane Austen. While connecting as friends and partners to do something they feel is important, all still have personal issues in their lives and how they deal with it and this new challenge is what makes this special. Will this group of new friends be able to accomplish what they want?

This was a pleasant book to read. It's not too heavy on the historical elements, although we can have a good notion about the atmosphere and ideas of the time, and there is enough romance to settle those who don't want just historical facts extrapolated. I liked this book but I also agree with those who say the writing was a little too focused on the telling and not the showing.

There are several characters who seem to have a key role. We have dr Grey, farmer Adam, young teacher Adeline, actress Mimi, maid Evie, spinster heiress Frances, lawyer Andrew... all personify someone who likes Jane Austen and the heritage her work has provided to the village. Although with different takes on the famous author's work, all agree her name and house should be preserved and they start a little group to accomplish precisely that. At the same time, we are given information about their lives, personalities, possible romances they could have... all makes for a very rich cast.

The problem is that we are told many things about them and then the next scene they are already doing something else or following on that first information, we don't see their interactions very often, which makes for a quick sort of novel, where the reader doesn't have to spend too much time deciding how some situation feels like, but on the other it makes for a very basic kind of plot, and I missed a bit more investment in the characters and in seeing their in action.

It felt like some of the characters seemed to embody characters from Austen's own novels, being Frances and Andrew a practically obvious copy of Persuasion. I'm certain this was done on purpose - what better way to channel Jane Austen? - but while I wasn't bothered by it, I found it hard to not notice and that felt like another easy distraction from a cast of characters that was already a little lacking more depth to suit my personal preference, so... I wouldn't say this tactic was always well done.

The plot is, indeed, focused on the creation of the society to preserve the name and work of Jane Austen and in that regard, most of the information seems to be based on logical steps, which I have not checked if are correct, but added a sense of seriousness and professionalism to the story. Some elements about this were a little too lengthy in some paragraphs and I lost some interest but the majority of the chapters is short, so it gives the sense reading was quick.

The end of the book presents a solution to all characters, both the romantic and the professional side. I think all are sort of expected from a certain point on, some clues are very obvious, but because we didn't have all the necessary interaction between some of them soon enough, some situations seem to be there just to fix things up in a perfect way, and not because the path taken had to be that one. I think this element could have been done better throughout the novel.

All in all a good story, could have had better execution, but I don't mind at all the time and effort it took to read it. Besides, it was fun to read about the characters analyses on the books of Jane Austen, to have them share a love for books that only other readers can truly appreciate.
Grade: 7/10

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