Book Review: Miss Austen

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publishers in return for an honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Random House UK and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

I’ll admit when I first requested this book from NetGalley I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I only have a passing familiarity with the life and works of Jane Austen, but I was intrigued by the suggestion that this novel attempts to explain why, twenty-some years after the death of her slightly more famous sister, Cassandra Austen took it upon herself to burn a large chunk of the correspondence written by Jane.

Written in a facsimile of Austen’s own style, the novel mainly concerns Cassandra’s visit to the village of Kintbury, home to family friends, the Fowles. While Cassandra searches the dusty recesses of the old rectory for any stray Austen correspondence, she reminisces on the life she shared with Jane, and the encounters that shaped their respective lives and dreams.

Even though the thoughts and motivations ascribed to Cassandra are of the author’s own making, it’s easy to believe that there might be some veracity to the narrative, and it’s this that makes Miss Austen such an enjoyable and intriguing read. You feel like you’re getting a glimpse into the real lives of these two women, like your sharing some intimate connection with them.

I truly enjoyed this novel, even if it’s not the sort of thing I’d normally read. I’d certainly recommend it to fans of Jane Austen, as well as to fans of historical fiction in general. A well deserved four out of five stars.

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