For the start of my eleventh week in Lockdown, I’ve gone for a little bit of everything to engage my imagination and keep boredom and its annoying and persistent cousin, anxiety at bay. I’ve picked the just published and heavily hyped ‘The Jane Austen Society’, a much-recommended audiobook with several narrators that came out last year, ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ and ‘Jackalope Wives and Other Stories’ where the title story won a Nebula in 2014.
I picked up ‘The Jane Austen Society’ by Natalie Jenner almost on the basis of the title alone. I’m a sucker for Jane Austen and books about Jane Austenish things, both because I love her novels and because I’m fascinated the devotion of Jane Austen’s fans.
The first part of the publishers summary was encouraging, with some reservations:
‘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.’
It offers a book focused on Jane Austen fans and set in the currently fashionable (by now verging on over-used) historical setting of England in 1945. It bothers me that this setting is often sold as being a time of renewal and optimism rather than as a time of huge social conflict, widespread deprivation and collective PTSD.
The next sentence was discouraging:
‘One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists.’
The book is set in 1945. Austen lived in Chawton from 1809 to 1817. How is that one hundred and fifty years ago? I’m hoping this is an oversight by the marketing department and that Natalie Jenner has paid more attention.
‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid must have been one of the most hyped audiobooks of 2019. I lost count of the number of time Amazon/Audible told me to read it.
That kind of hype either means the book is very good or the book is very bad and they’re trying shift copies before word of mouth kills sales. I held back.
I finally bought the book after half a dozen recommendations on BookLikes and a review from Sarah Lockwood. I opted for the audiobook version as the interview-based exposition makes it ideal for a multiple narrator book.
My wife has already read it, so I’ve had my expectations set for a rockumentary novel that plays on the different ways we remember the same events and describes the way in which success works to destroy all the things that initially make a band successful.
As a contemporary of the fictional Daisy, I’m also going to have to try and adjust to the idea that a book set in the late nineteen seventies now counts as Historical Fiction.
‘Jackalope Wives and Other Stories’, by T. Kingfisher (who also publishes as Ursula Verson), is the wild card in the deck.
I’ve never read her work before but I know that ‘Jackalope Wives’ won the Nebula for Best Story in 2014 and that ‘The Tomato Thief’ won the Hugo for Best Novelette in 2017, so it’s not much of a gamble.
I’m hoping for a collection of stories that will make me think as well as keep me entertained.