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  • Writer's pictureSara Bond

Pairings Project: THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY by Natalie Jenner

TLDR; an unabashed, intellectual love affair with Jane Austen and the small, everyday choices that lead to deeply human stories.

THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY by Natalie Jenner is ultimately a love story. While there are traditional romances, pining, slow burn affections, and broken hearts that all occur during the span of the story, the book itself is an unabashed, intellectual love letter to Jane Austen herself.

The story is the fictional imagining of the founding of the very real Jane Austen Society, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Austen’s legacy. The story takes place in the very town where Jane Austen spent many of the final years of her life and wrote several of her most beloved books. Set in the aftermath of both World Wars, JAS introduces a cast of characters faced with rebuilding their lives after grief and tragedy have impacted everything around them. With Austen’s stories linking them and binding them together, they by turns find comfort in her familiar stories, guidance in their experiences with their neighbors, and inspiration in living for something bigger than themselves.

Austen’s childhood home is threatened by neglect and sale, and in that home are many of her personal belongings, books, and possibly even letters she had written to family members. What’s inside this home could change the lives of scholarship surrounding Jane Austen, and the act of preserving it could change the lives of the people involved. The cast of characters are diverse: a farmer, a doctor, a school teacher, a movie star, a spinster, a lawyer, and a maid; the one thing that draws them together is their love of Jane Austen.

And while they disagree about which book of hers is best (I’m partial to P&P or S&S myself), or which heroine is the best guide for a good life (Lizzie Bennett is a personal heroine), they all guide their lives by the light of Austen’s stories. While some modern audiences may find themselves too cynical and inured to classic literature to find comfort in its pages, I found the book to be as welcome as a cup of hot tea on a cold day. It was comforting, uplifting, a balm for a restless mind, and a warming respite from an often too busy life. The JAS offered hope that words can matter, even in a world that always find the time to read them. That stories can change lives and remind us that the quiet moments of love and friendship and affection are just as important and world-changing as the flashy, high stakes, thrilling moments of our lives.

I highly recommend this gorgeous book. It’s got a slow burn, and it takes seriously the smaller moments in people’s lives, but that is what makes it so beautiful. It, like Austen’s books, recognizes that humanity isn’t always captured in big heroics and high-tension action; it’s present in every moment we embrace our flaws, our connections, and our love for the little things. Even if those little things are as big as Jane Austen herself.

TLDR; an unabashed, intellectual love affair with Jane Austen and the small, everyday choices that lead to deeply human stories.

Cocktail Pairing below


The English Breakfast 75

I knew I wanted to go with a champagne cocktail, here, and not just because I love champagne. I also wanted to play off the fact that, as the book is set in Chawton, England, characters are CONSTANTLY drinking tea. There’s morning tea, afternoon tea, tea for visitors, tea for grievers. If I didn’t incorporate a spot of tea into this pairing, I would be doing a great disservice to the spirit and characters of Jenner’s book.

Luckily, I had this charming bottle of cocktail tea! It’s a mix of English breakfast tea, lemon, lime, blended down for the perfect mixer for cocktails. Armed with this key ingredient, I decided to a spin on the classic French 75 (another personal favorite, and my signature drink). A French 75 combines gin, lemon juice, sugar and champagne. Since the tea mixer I have is already lightly sweetened and contains the citrus called for, I substituted it for both the lemon juice and the sugar in the original recipe.

Without ado, my cocktail!

The English Breakfast 75

1 ounce gin

.75 oz Classic tea mixer

5 oz chilled champagne/prosecco

Mix first two ingredients in a shaker over ice. Strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with champagne.

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