Audiobook Review: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society // by Natalie Jenner // narrated by Richard Armitage

Pub Day: May 26, 2020

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Length: 9 hours 55 minutes

Affiliate Link: Buy here on Bookshop.org

Synopsis:

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.

My Thoughts:

I have always wanted to be someone who loves the classics but a few months ago, I finally decided to be honest with myself: I really do not enjoy reading classics (besides The Count of Monte Christo of course). I have forced myself into so many books for the sake of being a well-rounded reader and ended up abandoning them each time. I have been much happier since I’ve stopped doing that. That doesn’t mean though that I stopped enjoying the heck out of my Pride & Prejudice DVD and I also still love to read modern books based on those same classics. So when I saw The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, I knew I had to read it!

I was a bit skeptical in the beginning because the story had a much slower start than I expected. I was also worried that maybe I was not familiar enough with Jane Austen’s works to be able to really appreciate this book either. But both of those worries were soon laid aside. While there were more characters to follow than I am used to, the way their lives intertwined gave me such nostalgic feelings about living in a small town and ensured that there wasn’t an information overload that would make it difficult for the reader to follow along. And though it does have a whole lot of references to Austen, which is of course not surprising if you’ve read the synopsis or – you know – the title itself, they were done in a way that felt natural to the storyline and didn’t pull the reader out of the story even if they weren’t familiar with the specific work that was referenced. If you are used to happy endings, then you will feel like “Of course I know how this is going to end” at some points in the story but I was actually surprised by how this book was wrapped up. This book was slow but steady all the way throughout and I really enjoyed being immersed into its world the entire time.

The choice for narrator for the audiobook stunned me a little bit at first because I wasn’t expecting a male narrator. Based on the topic and the somewhat whimsical looking cover, I didn’t even look at the narrator before starting it and just assumed it was going to be a feminine voice. The more invested I became in the story though, the more I started to feel what a great choice Richard Armitage was after all. I could not imagine anybody else doing it now instead.

This book does address some rather difficult issues, such as suicide and death, miscarriage, addiction, and sexual abuse. Some of these are explored further while others are only touched on briefly but to me at least it always felt very respectfully done. I have had a miscarriage myself recently so it can be difficult to hear and read about those but I felt that this topic was handled appropriately, though I would still advise to approach with care if you know this might bother you.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner was born in England and emigrated to Canada as a young child. She obtained her B.A. and her LL.B. from the University of Toronto and, in addition to a brief career as a corporate lawyer, worked as a recruiter, career coach and consultant to leading law firms in Canada for over twenty years. Natalie was also the founder of the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A USA Today, LA Times and #1 Canadian fiction bestseller, Natalie’s debut novel The Jane Austen Society will be published around the world in twenty different languages.

About the Publisher:

Founded in 1952 by Macmillan in London, St. Martin’s Press was for many years primarily a distributor of Macmillan books. However, particularly during the last 30 years, St. Martin’s grew rapidly as a publisher in its own right, finally becoming one of the seven largest publishers in America. From their home in the Equitable Building in New York, St. Martin’s publishes books under seven imprints: St. Martin’s Press, Griffin, Minotaur, Wednesday, Castle Point, Essentials, and Thomas Dunne Books.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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