The Jane Austen Society, by Natalie Jenner

This was a quick and fairly light read about villagers in the English village of Chawton forming an unlikely alliance to try to save Jane Austen’s family home and preserve it as a historic site. This actually did happen in the same post-WW2 era in which the novel is set, but this is a work of fiction. The varied cast of characters — a movie star, a grieving war widow, a troubled small-town doctor, a bright and ambitious servant girl, and a few others — who form the Jane Austen Society in this novel, are not the same people who actually came together to do that work in real life, nor are the circumstances of the way the property came down through Austen family descendants historically accurate. This is fine, of course, but it did feel slightly jarring to have a story inspired by real events in such recent history in which all the characters were fictional. It didn’t put me off enjoying the novel (or wanting to read the sequel, which I have on hold at the library) but it did make me think, as I so often do, about the boundaries of historical fiction versus historical fact.


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