Books, culture

The Jane Austen Society, Natalie Jenner

4.5 Stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Review:

Norwich born author, Natalie Jenner gives us her first novel – and what a treat she has given us. Even today we see the impact of Austen’s work as people continue to fall in love with her novels. Jenner brings together lovers of literature and history in her eloquently written and entirely moving novel. It is simply divine, and a book that I would heartily recommend to all, not just Jane Austen fans! Naturally any Austen fan will be interested in this book, but there is so much more which Jenner offers the reader.

Lovers of literature and history, I am delighted and overjoyed by this beautifully written and utterly fabulous story which delves into the history of Jane Austen and the enormous power that her work holds over people. We are introduced to the beautiful village of Chawton, its lovely inhabitants and their stories. The main characters who this tale follows are all lovable, well developed and completely draw you in. You feel their struggles as if they were your own, you will discover you cannot put this book down, it is a page turner, you will wholeheartedly love it. Set just after the Second World War the troubles which have befallen the people in this village are great but there is one person who can bring joy to even the darkest of woes. 

I visited Chawton House and the Jane Austen House Museum last year and thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of Jane Austen, seeing the table at which she wrote her novels and especially visiting the beautiful library which holds a large collection of women’s literature. Having visited the beautiful village of Chawton, it really enhanced this read for me as it felt more personal as I visualised my own memories of the place. Chawton village was where Jane Austen lived in the latter part of her life and a rather unusual collection of its inhabitants, 150 years on, are brought together through their love of her work.

I read (or devoured) this beautiful hardcover first but then afterwards discovered the audiobook is read by Richard Armitage so naturally I had to download it! I would thoroughly recommend buying both- this book lends itself to being reread multiple times!  

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“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”

Books

Lucinda Riley, The Seven Sisters book review: 4 stars!

Where to begin… This book was truly wonderful. Riley writes exquisitely and immediately lures you in to her well-crafted story. First we meet all the sisters as they return to the family home, Atlantis, upon hearing Pa Salt their father has passed away. We learn that the sisters, named after the Pleides known throughout various cultures mythology and as the star constellations, were all adopted by this elusive billionaire living in Atlantis on the lakes of Geneva. Here we get a glimpse of the sisters’ personalities and are intrigued to learn of their untold stories, which you will discover, in the following books.  Each has been given a clue to their true heritage and this book allows Maia to search for hers, which takes her to Brazil. 

snoozy spaniel with ‘The Seven Sisters’

Maia arrives in Rio in search of her true history after hiding away for years. This journey into her past will ultimately help her to heal and find what she desires. At first I was not completely enamoured with Maia, but throughout this book her personality flourishes as she learns more about her heritage. 

We also go back 80 years and meet Izabela Bonifacio daughter of Antonio Bonifacio who is intent on her marrying into the aristocracy. Izabela, a passionate young woman who I instantly felt drawn to, sees she must do her duty but yearns to see the old world and discover the beauty of art there. Heitor da Silva Costa, intends to travel to Paris in search of the perfect sculptor for the ‘Christ the Redemer’ for which he is organising the construction. Izabela who is friends with his daughter sees her one chance to live her dream and takes it and embarks on a life changing journey Europe. 

Nap time!

If you are looking for something to hold you under its spell and literally inhale then this book is for you. I was desperate to discover the stories of these to woman from different times who were undeniably similar. This is a beautiful, tragic story about searching for truth in the past only to discover the beauty of the future. This book is not to be missed, it is heart wrenchingly exquisite and I have fallen in love the characters and the story that Riley has created.

Bertie the springer spaniel is my favourite Reading buddy!
Books

Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse, Five Star Read!

Meet the eccentric characters who dwell in the beautiful and surreal world created by P.G. Wodehouse. Blandings Castle is home to The 9th Earl of Emsworth, Clarence, who is the head of the family, though he has little influence over his family and other relations. His absentmindedness is at the forefront of his personality and the most important thing in his life is The Empress, his prize white sow. The Honourable Fredrick Threepwood, is Clarence’s younger son, who, clearly inherited his father’s absentmindedness and general incompetence in all manners. He is newly engaged to the American Aline Peters, daughter of J. Preston Peters. Clarence is overjoyed at the prospect of being rid of his younger son after he has been imprisoned in Blandings so as to make sure he didn’t get into further mischief which, was the one thing he excelled in.

Alan getting camera shy!

Before we are introduced to these exquisitely created characters we meet some other interesting beings who dwell in London and are not all too familiar with the family previously described. Ash Marson writes adventure stories where the hero always manages to get himself out of a sticky situation. He meets the rather wonderful, in his opinion, Joan Valentine a fellow writer at the Mammoth Publishing company, who writes for the Home Gossip. Together they embark on their own adventure, unknowingly  in competition to rescue a stolen Scarab Beetle. This Scarab Beetle, an ancient Egyptian amulet, belonged to the American J Preston Peters, an avid collector, it was stolen by Lord Emsworth who believed it to have been a gift. So, they all pop off down to Blanding’s castle, Ash and Joan in disguise, where mayhem and madness ensue! The Hon Freddie is utterly disinterested in Aline and frankly would rather read the ‘Adventures of Gridley Quale’ the adventure stories written by Ash. Aline on the other hand is being courted by another who is also at the castle and hates Freddie’s guts, George Emerson. Lord Emsworth’s secretary, the efficient Baxter, is aware of the worth of the Scarab beetle, a $5,000 (a fortune in the 1930s) and guards it with his life. It would be a near impossible task for anyone to recover the Scarab but can the adventure writer Ash Marsden do it, or will Joan beat him too it?

Put your paws in the air if you like the sound of this!

So now you know what this book is about, why should you read it? Well, let me tell you! First, the eccentric and frankly hilarious characters which Wodehouse creates are just out of the very top draw of comedy writing; this bunch of miscreants get into all sorts of trouble and soon you will be desperate to know how they get out of various scrapes. Clarence and The Hon. Freddie for me are the stars of the show. Their complete inability to complete any task or even converse in a way that suggests sanity is magnificent. If you are on the lookout for some top class hilarity and jollity then look no further book lovers. Come and join in the madness of Blandings Castle and its occupants to experience escapism at its best. Which is something we all need now, more than ever!

Alan searching for the next five star read!

Love Sophie x