#TheJaneAustenSocietyParty, a new novel, and Miss Bate’s Baked Apples


Welcom to a Jane Austen party today.   I was invited to join this little soiree by The Book Club Cookbook.  Some of my favorite cookbooks and novels have come from my association with this group.  I received a free e-book galley along with a hard copy of The Jane Austen Society, two sets of Austen “trading” cards, plus a bonus gift from The Book Club Cookbook.  (More about that later.)

About the book:

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.

A powerful and moving novel that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life, both large and small, and the universal humanity in us all, Natalie Jenner’s The Jane Austen Society is destined to resonate with readers for years to come.

About the Author:

Natalie Jenner was born in England, raised in Canada, and graduated from the University of Toronto with consecutive degrees in English Literature and Law. She worked for decades in the legal industry and also founded the independent bookstore Archetype Books in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. A lifelong devotee of all things Jane Austen, The Jane Austen Society is her first published novel.

Instagram: @authornataliejenner
Twitter: @NatalieMJenner

What I thought….

I need to qualify this review by saying I’m not a Jane Austen fan. In fact, my only exposure to her (besides Clueless) was in my British Lit. survey class long ago, and I cannot even remember what we read. (It must have been just an excerpt.)  But, being a culturally literate person, I am familiar with Austen’s characters.

I also was not anxious to read this novel as I received it in a pdf as a galley from the publisher (for an honest review). For some reason, I find it hard to read these.

But, once I started, I could not put it down.

I wanted to connect with Jane like the members of the society did.  Mimi’s connection is shared with Adam on their first brief meeting:

I just feel, when I read her, when I reread her—which I do, more than any other author—it’s as if she is inside my head.  Like music.  My father first read the books to me when I was very young—he died when I was twelve—and I hear his voice, too, when I read her.  (Location 74)

I totally responded to the characters, every single one of them in the society. I loved the atmosphere of the small English village, the hunt for Austen artifacts, and the plan to save one of her homes. The society consists of a former school teacher, a medical doctor, a tenant farmer, a solicitor, an American movie star, a maid, a Sotheby’s accessor, and a would-be heiress.  Quite the eclectic group.  I also appreciated their take on Austen’s characters.  For instance, Dr. Gray observes:

Emma is not selfish, per se.  She is self-interested, in a way that most people can’t afford to be. (Location 536)

I was also totally in love with the banter between the characters, especially when they were quoting Austen back and forth.

And Jenner creates her own memorable characterization.   We get a glimpse into Frances through her love of books:

Something about her favourite books gave her tremendous comfort, and even a strange feeling of control, although she could not quite put her finger on why.  She just knew that she did not want to invest her time trying to figure out a new world, whom to like and whom to trust in it, and how to bear the author’s choices for tragedy and closure—or lack thereof.  (Location 952)

There is a bit of romantic air in the novel, but I would not characterize it as a “romance novel.” Although there are some happy endings, getting there requires the characters to cope with some terrible life experiences.

If I had any criticism of this work, it was that I could not hear the characters with a British accent and sometimes I thought the syntax and speech did not mirror post-WWII proper Queen’s English. That is a minor flaw and is not too distracting.

I also now own the complete works of Jane Austen. It’s going to the top of my to-read stack.  Thank you Ms. Jenner for introducing me to the classics.


The Food:

If one did not know that this novel was set in England, I think the assumption could be taken just from the food (and drink) listed below.

  • toast and tea
  • champagne
  • iced tea
  • “courgettes and wax beans and beats to pe pickled and preserved for the winter ahead” (location 503)
  • tea and sugar buns
  • “hot buns on their knees as their hands cradled warming mugs of milk black tea” (loc. 550)
  • apples and squash
  • Scotch
  • Piper-Heidsieck
  • lemon
  • gin and tonic
  • strong cup of coffee
  • bread and butter
  • roasted chestnuts and mulled wine
  • “sugar plums and rum balls and warm mince pies….bottles of claret and champagne….mulled wine steeped with cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg” (loc 1787)
  • oranges
  • “two different kinds of cakes on display:  walnut, and Victorian sponge filled with preserves made with strawberries from the walled garden and honey from the estate’s own apiary” (loc 2065-66)
  • whiskey
  • tea with both milk and sugar
  • “two tiny glasses of sherry” (loc 3244)

The mulled wine would have been fun, but it’s not the holidays.  I also was not going to try to master a Victorian sponge.  (I have been totally intimidated by this dessert since watching The Great British Baking Show.)  I went to the Jane Austen Centre for recipe ideas and found my inspiration there.     (The center is locted in Bath, not the Chawton setting of the novel.)

Miss Bates’ Baked Apples


Miss Bates’ Baked Apples

Inpsired by Miss Bates Baked Apples and based on Baked Apples with Wine

“There is nothing she likes so well as these baked apples, and they are extremely wholesome, for I took the opportunity the other day of asking Mr Perry…” Miss Bates rattling on in Emma


  • 2 baking apples (like Honeycrisp)
  • 4 T. brown sugar
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon  (I used Indonesian Korintje Cinnamon.*)
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 c. dried cherries
  • 1/2 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. red wine


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves, and dried cherries.  Place apples in a small baking pan and pack the sugar mixture in to the apples.  Divide butter and top each apple with a pat.
  3. Add wine to the baking pan. Bake 30-40 minutes, until tender, but not mushy.   Baste apples with pan juices a couple of times during baking.   Remove from the oven.
  4. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.

Yield: 2

This is an easy dessert and I love the flavors of the stuffing.

For presentation, I would split them down the middle.   In fact, half an apple is plenty for one serving.

These baked apples make a comforting and homey dessert, one that might have been baked in the Austen household.

Inside the bakehouse at Jane Austen’s Chawton home. (from https://www.janeausten.co.uk/)

Evie, Francis’ “house girl” and library cataloger read  about Virginia Woolf  “saying that Jane Austen was the hardest of all great writers to catch in the act of greantess” (Location 1079).   I am off to  find that greatness as I tackle Emma and then Pride and Prejudice.  I would love some guidance from the Jane-o-philes.  If you are one, please leave a comment with recommendations.
I mentioned that I also recieved a gift from Judy at The Book Club Cookbook.   

 What was inside?

Ground bay leaf and spice mix.

 So excited!   I’ve used the blends before (The Joy Luck Rub and Of Spice and Men) and was very impressed with the blends and quality.   The Indonesian Korintje Cinnamon I used in this recipe is the “Of Spice and Men” offering.  We’ve already used this latest spice mix (0f the Clove-bert variety) on some grilled burgers and they were fantastic.   I plan to share other recipes soon to highlight these two latest spices.

Check out there inventive spice names here.

I’m linking up with Foodies Read for May.
While I received a complimentary copy of the book from author Natalie Jenner and publisher St. Martin’s Press plus spices from The Book Club Cookbook, rest assured that this is an honest and fair review.   All thoughts, opinions, and rants are my own.   

13 comments to #TheJaneAustenSocietyParty, a new novel, and Miss Bate’s Baked Apples

  • What an interesting book. I admit I like Jane Austen but she was never my go-to classic author. Your review of this book has me very interested. I’ll add it to the short list as I currently have 4 books in line up that I have due dates coming up at the library.

    Love all the mentions of food and the characters and the village descriptions. Way back in 1999 I spent my birthday in Bath and it was a very memorable event. I need this book!

    By the way I I can’t get PDF downloads to work for me either, you aren’t alone.

    • I’m enjoying my foray into the classics but not sure that I would reread her. How lucky to spend time in Bath. I would love to go follow the Austen trail some day.

  • I enjoyed this novel as well and am always grateful for The Book Club Cookbook for their generosity. I think the baked apples were a great choice to share.

  • There are quite a bit of food in this book. The only Jane Austens books I have ever read is Pride and Prejudice, so can’t say that I am a huge fan. The baked apples look very tasty.

  • I, too, realize that I’m not a huge Jane Austen fan. Still, her books have certainly impacted the literary canon. Great recipe!

  • Pam

    I’m not a fan of Jane Austin either, and have only read, “Pride and Prejudice,” but this book sounds really interesting, so I will check it out. And the apples look very delicious, I make them the same except for the wine addition.

    • I started Emma the other night. It’s probably better that I watched the Gwyneth film. It’s helping me keep the characters straight.

  • Sounds like a fun read! Jane Austen is one of my favorite writers — her sense of humor is so wickedly honest and perceptive. A lot of people don’t like her because “nothing” happens, but so much really does — you just have to pay attention. Fun post — thanks.

  • mae

    I hope you are enjoying Emma. I really love it and all Jane Austen’s novels, which I reread every few years. I haven’t really liked the re-do books, but I loved the film “clueless.”

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com