I won an ARC! Yay! I never win, so that’s fun! An ARC is an advanced readers copy of a book that an author or publisher will send you in advance of its publication. The goal is to read and review and rate to help generate excitement for when it comes out. And I was sent a copy of The Jane Austin Society from debut author Natalie Jenner.
The Jane Austin Society is set in a small town right after WW2. Why is this small town important? It’s where Jane Austin herself lived and wrote. There are some villagers who don’t appreciate that fact, or that it attracts so many tourists. But there also many who do appreciate it.
A doctor, a teacher, a farmer, an Austin distant relative, a lawyer and a maid. And from out of town, an actress and an antiques auctioneer. Our story story follows these villagers was they work to save what physical possessions of Austin’s still exist.
Which gets complicated when a very old, mean man dies and leaves a surprise will behind.
The plot is pretty simple, the biggest surprise we get doesn’t make a difference in the plot so that was a little weird. But it was very sweet. And there were elements that felt very Austin, so that was great.
A big focus of the book was love and relationships. There are two couples who are desperately in love, and have been for years and sometimes decades, who finally get together. It’s a little frustrating to watch that since it seems like they both could have gotten together much sooner if they would have literally just talked to one another. But the mixed signals and crossed wires did feel pretty Austin-esque.
The language was accessible and most of the characters were interesting. Honestly, the biggest take aways I got were that I need to read more Austin, and that stories connect us as people. Which were great! But I kinda had to pull those out.
Unfortunately there were some pretty serious issues. There were too many characters to be totally invested, the plot was a little slow and kinda predictable, and the end felt a little flat.
It wasn’t terrible, it had a lot of lovely elements, but it just needed a little rounding out I think. The most complex elements, drug abuse, heritage, death, homosexuality, were handled half halfheartedly and on a very surface level. The biggest example of this, in several instances, is in Adam. I won’t give away any spoilers but really? And his ending?? I’m not sure what Jenner was going.
But! It did show the importance of community! And taking control of your own life! And that you should live your life to the fullest!
I will also be the first to admit that I am not much a consumer of this style of novel. So take all of this with a grain of salt. If you love Austin inspired writing, maybe you’ll love it! And in that case I encourage you to read it when it comes out in May. If that’s not your scene but you still want something sweet with a happy ending, I recommend The Flatshare. Now, if you need me, I’m going to go read Persuasion. Jenner definitely inspired me to read all the Austin’s I haven’t yet and learn more about her life!