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Summary

The international best seller.

Only a few months after the end of the Second World War, a new battle is beginning in the little village of Chawton. Once the final home of Jane Austen, the Chawton estate is dwindling and the last piece of Austen's heritage is at risk of being sold to the highest bidder....  

Drawn together by their love of her novels, eight very different people - from a local farmer to a glamorous film star - must unite to attempt something remarkable. As new friendships form and the griefs of the past begin to fade, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society and to save the beloved novelist's home and legacy. But can her words change all their lives in return?

A heartbreaking and uplifting novel of hope, loss and love. Perfect for fans of Miss Austen by Gill Hornby and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

©2019 Natalie Jenner (P)2019 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"A wonderful book, a wonderful read." (Karen Joy Fowler, best-selling author of The Jane Austen Book Club)

"A charming and memorable debut, which reminds us of the power of books to unite and heal." (Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris)

What listeners say about The Jane Austen Society

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  • JD
  • 31-05-20

Interesting and enjoyable

The book which is about the forming of a Jane Austen group just after WWII, describes how the 8 people involved set about acquiring Chawton Cottage where JA lived with her family for some years and how they make an attempt to turn it into a museum.

So, what did I think? Well, first of all, I had to get my head around the fact that the characters and the story-line are fictional. Yes, the cottage was acquired just after the war but not by these imaginary characters and not in this way. I kept wanting to google-check things but, in the end, I just sat back and enjoyed it for what it is. I did wonder, however, if this was doing a disservice to the people who actually did set up the museum because I'm sure that many readers will assume that it is all true and give these fictional characters the credit for what must have been, historically, a great achievement. The story moves at a slow, leisurely pace and the first half deals with the main characters and their pasts and what made them decide to get involved in this venture. This might not suit some people but I enjoyed the way that the book took its time. Other listeners will be expecting a 'romance' and, although several are involved, they are only really touched upon and are not the main thrust of the story-line. If anything, the book is more about grief and how different characters deal with it. It is also, of course, about Austen, and the love of JA is what binds the 8 disparate characters together: a doctor, a solicitor, an auctioneer, a farmer, a Hollywood film star, one of the Knight family, a teacher and a servant girl. You can read this without knowing anything about JA but I did enjoy the discussions that the characters have about her and her books. The author also creates at least some of these 8 protagonists in the image of characters from her books and it was fun to spot whom they represented. There was a bit more activity in the second half of the book once the society has been set up and there were also a couple of twists to the story. The ending is a satisfying one.

It is NJ's first novel and I was impressed. It is well-written with only a couple of minor Americanisms. She was born in the UK but emigrated to Canada as a child and I was amazed at how 'English' the story was: she has captured the atmosphere of a small English village, the characters and their turns of phrase as well as any British writer. Well done, that girl!

Richard Armitage's reading was, of course, as marvellous as ever. His women are perfect and I forgot I was listening to a man, and his various accents - posh, local yokel, Scottish, American and Birmingham - all sounded good to me. He must be one of the best audio readers out there and would make a great Dr Gray in any film of this novel.

14 people found this helpful

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Absolutely brilliant

I have loved every single moment of this book. Thank you Natalie Jenner for writing such a fabulous book. I have loved listening to the wonderful voice of Richard Armitage becoming the characters. I could listen to it all over again.

8 people found this helpful

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A heart-warming, feel-good story.

I ripped through this book. Nine and a half hours of blissful listening about eight wonderful characters who come together to save Jane Austen's cottage in Chawton and set up a museum there in her honour. Along the way we learn about their lives, their relationships, their motivations and how they connect with each other.

Superbly plotted, excellent characters and wonderful narration. One of the best books I have listened to. I thoroughly recommend it. Jane Austen lovers will love it.

7 people found this helpful

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Thoroughly enjoyable, narration was very good

A thoroughly enjoyable story. I thought eight main characters may be hard to follow, but their stories were interwoven and brought together very well. The narration was excellent - Richard Armitage brought the characters to life authentically and with care.

4 people found this helpful

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It grew on me

Thought I wasn't going to enjoy it to begin with. but it was fabulous. and it really drew me in. the characters were realistic and the narration was superb.

4 people found this helpful

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Disappointing despite a superb reader

When an audio book comes along read by your favourite narrator and with the subject of one of your favourite authors, you have to get it. Sadly, this was a huge disappointment. Mr Armitage's narration was as beautifully done as ever, but the story lacked drive and focus. The contrived story of the will lacked credibility and there were far too many blunders showing a lack of research into the period. If you are going to set a story 75 years in the past, you need to get the details right! However, worst of all was the lack of depth in characterisation, possibly as there wasn't a focus on one or two main protagonists. Mr Armitage did his best with creating recognisable voices, but he sadly didn't have very much to work with. Not really worth the effort.

3 people found this helpful

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Convincente

Toccante, imperdibile per tutti i fan di Jane Austen. Ho amato subito il personaggio Dr. Gray. Bellissimo la parte della sua visita al cimitero. La voce di R. Armitage è la perfezione assoluta!

2 people found this helpful

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  • K
  • 16-03-21

Amazing

4-5 stars rounded up.

Do you sometimes lie in bed, feeling miserable, not quite knowing what to do and even if you did, you wouldn't have the energy to get up and do it? Yeah, that's where I was when I started listening to the audiobook of The Jane Austen Society. I thought that if I had to feel miserable, I wanted to feel miserable while Richard Armitage was narrating a book in his soothing voice. Not only did his voice make me feel better, but I became so invested in the story and the characters that I continued listening to it while eating dinner and brushing my teeth. The first four and a half hours flew by, and I finished the audiobook the next day. It was everything I needed, and more, I LOVED it.

The story is set in the early 1940s, spanning several years, and it is told from different points of view that are made up of the most important characters. There is a widowed country doctor in his forties, a farmer, a famous American movie-star, an heiress to the Knight family estate that still belongs to her spiteful father, and a passionate young teacher who is recently widowed. What these characters have in common? They are all ardent fans of Jane Austen and they all live in Chawton, the finale home to Jane Austen where she wrote her novels. Their shared love for Austen unites these characters. It brings them together to found the Jane Austen Society, dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and study of Miss Jane Austen's life and works.

The love for Austen and her works really pervades this book. I am glad Jane Austen's name was not used as a simple marketing tool to better sell the book. You can tell the author appreciates Austen and her books by the conversations the characters have about Pride and Prejudice or Emma. They muse about specific quotes and lines from the novels and discuss the characters' thoughts and feelings. Even though this book is a work of fiction, it does incorporate details about Jane Austen's life. You won't learn anything new if you're a passionate Austenite (is that what her fans call themselves?), but I learned some stuff that I didn't know before!

The characters themselves are very endearing. Even though the switching POVs were a little confusing sometimes because there were about a dozen characters, they quickly grew on me. Despite the charming village they live in, their lives are not always wonderful and rosy. Loss and trauma play a significant role in the characters' lives and they each struggle with grief, trying to cope with the aftermath of war and losing loved ones. As with Jane's novels, there are misunderstandings, unsaid words among characters who hide their true feelings, people who have loved each other in the past but were torn apart. However, how they find each other, and how they grow out of their misery and begin to bloom in the face of hope and change is all developed so naturally, so beautifully, that there were a few times when I was reduced to tears over the characters' love lives and emotional hardships.

I was really invested in the characters, and there was a specific slow-burn relationship that was so incredibly well-written that I kept screaming (in my head) at the characters to just confess their feelings already! Writing about it already makes me want to re-listen to the whole book. The ending is well-written, wrapping up the entire story in a very satisfactory, Austen-esque way!

Overall, this was a fantastic historical fiction/ romance book that felt like a hug from a friend. I would recommend this to any Jane Austen fan. The Jane Austen Society allows you to escape into an Austen-like world and warms your heart, all the while reminding you that even though loss and pain are inevitably a part of our lives, they don't make us who we are. The book reminds us that hope is always possible and that we are never too broken to be made whole again.

1 person found this helpful

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Loved this book

I love Richard Armitage voice. He is clear and succinct. He can produce different accents flawlessly and they add to the enjoyment of the story. Whether he is reading Chekhov or Natalie Jenner he makes the characters, the places come to life.

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Beautiful read

I loved this book. I found this quote below very interesting and relevant which explains why every time I read any of Jane Austen's books or books about her and her family life, I find my inner peace & comfort.
'During the Great War, shell-shocked soldiers had been encouraged to read Jane Austen in particular—Kipling had coped with the loss of his soldier son by reading her books aloud to his family each night—Winston Churchill had recently used them to get through the Second World War.'

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fabulous Mrs B
  • 11-10-21

Interesting

This was a great read. Not Jaff but still Jane Austen. Interesting characters and their lives. Loved it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-06-21

Performance great, story flower

Great performance by Richard Armitage. The story itself was flowery and seemed confused of what time it belonged in. The author applied only the most romantic trappings and customs of the time period and did away with anything else in a way that was distinctly American, which in my opinion makes it not historical fiction at all, and was probably the most frustrating part. Otherwise it was a nice enough story, rose tinted and whimsical.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 21-07-20

Perfection

The love of Jane Austen's books shine through this book. I just have the urge to read Jane Austen now. This story stands on it's own but with a heavy influence of Jane.Beautifully written with very human characters. I highly recommend it- I will read it again