Tag Archives: Post-war England

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner

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Hachette Australia

MAY 26, 2020 | 9781409194118 | RRP $32.99

Wow! This is certainly one impressive debut novel and well worth putting on your TBR list, particularly if you love books like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and others of its ilk.

Beautifully articulated characters who drive this narrative, which has some basis in historical fact but is purely fictional, will absolutely enthrall you from the first chapter.

In the small village of Chawton, where Jane Austen made her home for some years, a collection of village residents are all dealing with the post-war years and their troubles in their various ways.

Local GP Dr Bray is still struggling with his grief after the accidental death of his wife ten years previously and dangerously self-medicating, even though he is arguably the most well-respected member of the community.

Young and vivacious Adeline has become the newest teacher at the village school but is constantly falling foul of the trustees for her innovative methods.

Miss Knight, last direct descendant of Jane Austen’s brother, still lives in the Knight family home and is dominated by her mean-spirited and cruel ailing father, while at the time anxious about the dwindling finances of the estate.

Adam Berwick, trusted local farmer by day, romantic reader and Jane Austen devotee by night, feels lost and despondent over the death of his father and both his brothers during the war.

Young Evie Stone, bright star pupil, has been forced by her father’s incapacitating accident to leave school and enter service at the big house, where she secretly revels in the vast library which she is assiduously cataloguing.

Solicitor Andrew Forrester who has proven his astute knowledge of the law time and time again, is conflicted over his legal duty to old Mr Knight whilst still holding his youthful flame for Miss Knight.

Together this core group decide to form The Jane Austen Society and establish a museum and trust in honour of their famous local author, before all evidence and tokens of her existence are obliterated. They are, in due course, joined by Hollywood star Mimi Harrison (or Mary Anne really) and Sotheby’s agent Yardley Sinclair, both passionate Austen fans as well.

There are twists and turns a-plenty as the interactions and relationships of all involved come into play, while all the time none deviate from their shared purpose. Emotions run high at times as old histories and long-held secrets are brought to light, their fledgling trust and society is threatened from more than one quarter and relationships become as complicated as anything the celebrated author might have written.

This is just a beautiful read and the reader becomes completely involved with these characters, their foibles and their strengths. The gathering up of all the disparate threads and their subsequent weaving into one delicious narrative cloth has been achieved skillfully and it would be a hard-to-please reader who will not enjoy this gentle but thoughtful excursion into another time and place.

Highly recommended for readers from YA to adult – I have already been talking it up in my bookish circles.

The Happy Prisoner – Monica Dickens

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First published in 1946 I originally read this when a friend gave me  a copy as a birthday gift many (many!) years ago. I loved it so much and re-read it so often that the paperback disintegrated over time and was reluctantly abandoned.

A few weeks ago the wonderful Pat Pledger of ReadPlus invited some of us (t-l’s) to contribute to a ‘feel good’ reading list for the holidays and this was the first book that came into my head. I realised just how long it was since I had read it so immediately sourced a copy (it’s now out of print it seems). It arrived yesterday and I binge-read it last night and what a joy that was!

The Dickens talent for creating memorable characters touched with both drama and humour seems to be genetic and I’ve also enjoyed Monica’s other books – now about to source a copy of both One Pair of Hands and One Pair of Feet!

Here’s a precis -taken from GoodReads of this delightful excursion into post-war English family life.

 

It is the end of WW II and the household of Mrs. North, a well-to-do widow with a country cottage, is very busy. War circumstances brought both of her daughters home: loud but good-hearted tomboy, Violet, and highly-strung and over sensitive Heather with her two small children. Mrs. North is also taking care of her young niece, Evelyn, a lively child who loves to play on the local farm and has a great passion for animals. But at the center of all this is Oliver, Mrs. North’s only son who lost his leg during the war service abroad.

Recovering from his injuries, bed-ridden Oliver has nothing better to do but observe the busy lives of the people around him. Treated as a hero and a confidant by all the women in his family, Oliver begins to enjoy his new role as a self-proclaimed counselor. Due to his advice, Violet, an independent spinster, unexpectedly accepts the marriage proposal from a local farmer. Her wedding is a success and Violet finds a new happiness in her marriage, but soon Oliver’s meddling in his family affairs goes too far. Will his risky instructions save or ruin Heather’s marriage, which is at the brink of crisis, when her husband comes back from Australia after a few years of separation? Will Oliver learn to accept his new circumstances? Will he finally face to the reality and start to rebuild his own life?

In this compendium plot, Monica Dickens, with her typical attention to detail, humor and talent for creating vivid characters, explores complicated life stories of the close-knit family and their friends at the end of the war. The Happy Prisoner was first published in 1946.

Why not explore some Monica Dickens for yourself? In these rather anxiety-filled times, some light relief is so very welcome.