Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

Cassandra Austen returns to Kintbury in search of old letters between herself, her sister and their mutual friend Eliza Fowles. Eliza’s daughter Isabella has to move out of the priory after her father’s death and so the house is emptied. But Cassandra, who is taking care of the estate of her beloved sister and author Jane Austen, doesn’t want certain letters to be made public.

Miss Austen is a novel about Jane’s older sister Cassandra. Cassandra lived a lot longer than Jane and, in this book, symbolises the single woman in the 19th century. Her fiancé Tom Fowles died before they could marry and Cassandra vowed not to marry anyone else. The book is told in two perspectives: that of Jane and Cassandra as young women and that of the older Cassandra who moves in with Isabella in search of the letters. Isabella, too, is one such single woman who therefore has to look for a new home.

The book alludes to a number of Jane’s works and although the letters are fictional, Jane’s voice is clearly evident in them. The love of literature splashes from this book. But something is missing. The older Cassandra storyline hints to some kind of secret that cannot be disposed. Yet, the letters contain not so much information about Jane and Cassandra that is really secret. So for me it felt Cassandra went through a lot of trouble for nothing.

All in all, this is an adorable novel that takes you into the world of the Austen family. A book to crawl under a blanket with, but one that will also soon be forgotten I’m afraid.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Have you read this one? Do you recommend another book about Jane Austen’s world?


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