Cover image for Miss Austen : a novel
Title:
Miss Austen : a novel
ISBN:
9781250252203
Edition:
1st U.S. ed.
Physical Description:
x, 270 pages ; 25 cm.
Summary:
Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was? England, 1840. For the two decades following the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen has lived alone, spending her days visiting friends and relations and quietly, purposefully working to preserve her sister's reputation. Now in her sixties and increasingly frail, Cassandra goes to stay with the Fowles of Kintbury, family of her long-dead fiancé, in search of a trove of Jane's letters. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister's legacy to the flames? Moving back and forth between the vicarage and Cassandra's vibrant memories of her years with Jane, interwoven with Jane's brilliantly reimagined lost letters, Miss Austen is the untold story of the most important person in Jane's life. With extraordinary empathy, emotional complexity, and wit, Gill Hornby finally gives Cassandra her due, bringing to life a woman as captivating as any Austen heroine. --
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A #1 International Bestseller

"A deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts." --Karen Joy Fowler

"You can't help feeling that Jane would have approved." -- The Guardian

For fans of Jo Baker's Longbourn , a witty, wonderfully original novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.

Whoever looked at an elderly lady and saw the young heroine she once was?

England, 1840. Two decades after the death of her beloved sister, Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kintbury and the home of her family friends, the Fowles. In a dusty corner of the vicarage, there is a cache of Jane's letters that Cassandra is desperate to find. Dodging her hostess and a meddlesome housemaid, Cassandra eventually hunts down the letters and confronts the secrets they hold, secrets not only about Jane but about Cassandra herself. Will Cassandra bare the most private details of her life to the world, or commit her sister's legacy to the flames?

Moving back and forth between the vicarage and Cassandra's vibrant memories of her years with Jane, interwoven with Jane's brilliantly reimagined lost letters, Miss Austen is the untold story of the most important person in Jane's life. With extraordinary empathy, emotional complexity, and wit, Gill Hornby finally gives Cassandra her due, bringing to life a woman as captivating as any Austen heroine.


Author Notes

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels The Hive and All Together Now , as well as The Story of Jane Austen , a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The third novel from Hornby (All Together Now) strikes gold in the much-mined terrain of Jane Austen--inspired fiction. After Jane's death in 1817, her sister Cassandra "Cassy" Austen becomes a fierce protector of her literary reputation and remains so for decades. In March 1840, 67-year-old Cassy discovers that family friends the Fowles are moving out of their home in the village of Kintbury. Cassy, aware of a series of mischievous and moody letters Jane sent their friend Eliza Fowle, fears the letters might tarnish her sister's legacy if made public, so she travels to Kintbury to find them before they fall into the hands of the Fowle family historian. After sneaking into Eliza's room and reading the letters, Cassy revisits her own past, from the death of her fiancé to her eventual role as the family's endlessly useful spinster aunt; Jane's shifting authorial fortunes; and the sisters' deep, enduring intimacy. While today's Jane-ites decry the real Cassandra's decision to burn much of Austen's correspondence, Hornby's Cassy is convincingly sympathetic in her effort to preserve her sister's reputation, and a focus on female relationships and mutual support adds unexpected tenderness. Echoing Austen's sardonic wit and crisp prose without falling into pastiche, Hornby succeeds with a vivid homage to the Austens and their world. (Apr.)


Kirkus Review

Sister of the more famous Jane, Cassandra Austen emerges as a figure in her own right, a woman who, although disappointed in love, finds fulfillment in her devotion to her sister, both in her lifetime and beyond."Poor, beautiful Miss Austen, condemned to eke out a sad life with nothing to do but care for others and control the temperament of her difficult sister" is the comical opinion of Jane Austen herself on her sister, Cassy, at least according to Hornby (All Together Now, 2015, etc.), whose animation of the close relationship between the siblings is the driving force of her new novel. Denied marriage and children after the death of her fiance, Cassandra becomes a model of duty and self-sacrifice, watching over her family generally and Jane in particular as keeper of the flame and guardian of her reputation. This role will include destroying any evidence detrimental to Jane's future status, such as letters revealing a fragile, depressive side to her character. It's on this mission that Cassy, in 1840, decades after her sister's death, visits the Kintbury vicarage to sift through a stash of Jane's correspondence. As Cassy reviews these letters, so the story flashes back to earlier episodesof sisterly delight; of anxiety about the future when the Austens must leave their home after Mr. Austen's retirement; of trips to Bath and the English coast; of meetings with potential suitors. All this offers Hornby the opportunity to observe the marriage market, women's lot, and men's dominionthough with a heavier satirical hand than Jane Austen'sand also to suggest that members of Austen's own circle might have inspired some of her characters. Cassy herself never quite convinces and the business of the book can seem scattered, but the evocation of the sisters' closeness is solid.A nicely judged fictional resurrection joins the tribute library accumulating around a literary icon. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Hornby's (All Together Now, 2015) titular Miss Austen is Cassandra, Jane Austen's elder sister, who in 1840 is an aging spinster visiting the family of her late fiancé. Cassandra is fiercely protective of her increasingly famous sister's legacy and uses the visit as an opportunity to search for letters from Jane to one of the daughters of the house--letters that Cassandra plans to read and then destroy. Frequent flashbacks to scenes described in the letters during Cassandra and Jane's youth depict the death of Cassandra's fiancé, Jane's infamous one-night engagement to a family friend, and the sisters' peripatetic lives following their father's retirement. Austen fans will enjoy Hornby's nuanced, fresh portrayal of Jane as a woman devoted to her writing and her family but who could at times be frustratingly stubborn. Cassandra herself is similarly fascinating, a woman who never ceases her efforts to carve out a life of her own in a world that is not kind to unmarried women. The pacing is leisurely, but the thoughtful characterization makes this a worthy addition to most collections.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020