Cassandra and Jane: A Jane Austen Novelby Jill Pitkeathley
They were beloved sisters and the best of friends. But Jane and Cassandra Austen suffered the same fate as many of the women of their era. Forced to spend their lives dependent on relatives, both financially and emotionally, the sisters spent their time together trading secrets, challenging each other's opinions, and rehearsing in myriad other ways the domestic
They were beloved sisters and the best of friends. But Jane and Cassandra Austen suffered the same fate as many of the women of their era. Forced to spend their lives dependent on relatives, both financially and emotionally, the sisters spent their time together trading secrets, challenging each other's opinions, and rehearsing in myriad other ways the domestic dramas that Jane would later bring to fruition in her popular novels. For each sister suffered through painful romantic disappointments—tasting passion, knowing great love, and then losing it—while the other stood witness. Upon Jane's death, Cassandra deliberately destroyed her personal letters, thereby closing the door to the private life of the renowned novelist . . . until now.
In Cassandra & Jane, author Jill Pitkeathley ingeniously reimagines the unique and intimate relationship between two extraordinary siblings, reintroducing readers to one of the most intriguing figures in the world of literature, as seen through the eyes of the one person who knew her best.
Following Jane Austen's untimely death in 1817 at age 41, her "most beloved sister" destroyed most of their correspondence; in her first novel, House of Lords peer Pitkeathley attempts to fill in the gaps through the eyes of Cassandra, Jane's closest confidante and sharpest critic. Cassandra tells of the Austen family's precarious position on the lowest tier of Hampshire's aristocracy, Jane's early attempts at "scribbling" and the crushing romantic disappointments of the two. Throughout, Cassandra's detailed look at her younger sister showcases not only Jane's literary accomplishments and "the low spirits, the anger, even the bitterness in her," but also her indefatigable romanticism. Cassandra's voice is perfectly pitched, true to Austen's England, and jam-packed with Austen trivia. Descriptions of known events in the sisters' lives, however, tend toward the didactic, especially compared to Pitkeathley's imaginative leaps regarding the sisters' secrets; as such, the seams between actual and imagined history are entirely too visible. Ardent Austen devotees will be undeterred by the uneven narrative, but casual fans may want to pass. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
While Jane Austen is recognized the world over as one of the greatest storytellers in the English language, in this fictional work, the talent does not extend to her sister. This first novel by Pitkeathley imagines the relationship between the sisters Austen, as told from Cassandra's first-person point of view. Unfortunately, Cassandra is a dullish narrator, wringing her hands and denigrating herself throughout the book. The character may indeed have been an early model for Sense and Sensibility 's Elinor Dashwood (as Pitkeathley seems to imply), but she has none of the sparkle, wit, or drollery of Miss Dashwood, instead possessing an abundance of prudery and simpering judgment. From Cassandra, we get only the merest glimpses of the secret side of Jane that her sister claims to know better than any other. Accuracy aside, the novel fails to entertain with the story of Austen's life. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2004, the book appears to be releasing Stateside to capitalize on the popularity of recent Austen biopics. Recommended for Austen completists.-Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
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Meet the Author
Jill Pitkeathley was born in the Channel Islands of the United Kingdom. The former chief executive of the Carers National Association (now Carers UK), she is a Life Peer in the House of Lords, a longtime Austen fan, and the author of the novel Cassandra and Jane. She lives in London.
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