1840: twenty three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury, and the home of her family’s friends, the Fowles.
She knows that, in some dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, there is a cache of family letters which hold secrets she is desperate should not be revealed.
As Cassandra recalls her youth and her relationship with her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together buried truths about Jane’s history, and her own. And she faces a stark choice: should she act to protect Jane’s reputation? Or leave the contents of the letters to go unguarded into posterity …
Based on a literary mystery that has long puzzled biographers and academics, Miss Austen is a wonderfully original and emotionally complex novel about the loves and lives of Cassandra and Jane Austen.
By: Gill Hornby
Publisher: Century/FlatIron Books
Page Count: 416
Format: Hardback, Paperback, eBook
Release Date: January 23, 2020
This book was deeply moving, the look at sisterhood and family was perfection especially in regards to the family Hornby is writing of. The Austens. A family quite close to each other and within that closeness an even deeper bond between Cassandra and Jane. She takes a bit of a mystery angle in this, trying to give us answers in the gaps Cassandra has left by culling certain correspondences with/regarding Jane. She was the gatekeeper and that is the role she plays in this novel.
This is all from Cassandra’s perspective but fluctuates between the past with Jane and the present, as she struggles to find and get hold of letters that could be harmful to Jane’s writing legacy and reputation.
One of the most beautiful things about this novel was the fact that it highlights the absolute contentment between the sisters. Of course, there were rough times and hardships, heartache, loss, and the wish of something more, but, through it all, they were fine with having each other. It was as if Hornby and Austen are shouting through different times to say ‘it’s okay to be single, to value love of family over romantic love, that it’s not necessary to lead a fulfilled life.’ But, the story and Austen’s novels also say, it’s just as okay to choose/have romantic love. I loved that quite a bit about Hornby’s novel. She’s taken a real-life mystery and made it into a delightful work of historical fiction.
Hornby’s prose is so reminiscent of what you enjoy in an Austen novel if you’re an Austen fan, and it just flourished. There wasn’t too much focus on small details, and the characters were so enjoyable. It was just the pacing which seemed to drag on in the present without aim sometimes that really threw me, but, it paid off in the end as the present did have its own purpose.
There’s also a very Jane Austen-esque story within that concerning some of the Fowle family as I mentioned above it’s the focus of the present. I enjoyed every minute of this book. I just felt at times it could drag which is why I did not give it a higher rating as it really put the story on pause almost by doing the pacing like that. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
If you’re in the U.K. Waterstones has a beautiful edition of this up for preorder, and there’s another signed edition available at Goldsboro, but, there’s also just the regular versions of course which all have the same amazing pages within!